Gary Weiss is the freshmen football coach at Catalina Foothills High School. Or, I should say, was. But there’s confusion over what exactly he did to lose that position…
According to him, he was asked to do something illegal and said no:
… Weiss said he was instructed to tell his players to stop praying before and after games or he would be let go. He refused. Now he says he’s out of a job.
But that’s weird. Students are allowed to pray before and after games. Hell, they can pray during a game if they want. On Friday, the Varsity players, at least, did just that:
The district even made clear that it’s perfectly fine if students choose to pray on their own, as long as coaches have nothing to do with it.
So what’s the problem? The KVOA report by Lauren Reimer leaves a lot of unanswered questions on the table.
But considering Weiss’ previous job appears to have been at a Christian school, it’s possible he indirectly led a prayer (maybe by telling students to pray before or after a game), was told to stop, misinterpreted that as district officials telling him prayers were illegal altogether (not just coach-led ones), did the same thing again, and got fired.
I don’t know. I contacted a district official last night for more information and will post an update if/when I hear back.
In the meantime, it seems like the district is doing everything it can to follow the law and they deserve credit for that.
There’s one other aspect of this story that’s worth mentioning. Weiss claimed that the prayers were all-inclusive:
The coach said that students’ participation was unanimous and inclusive.
“The prayers of the freshmen team have been recited by Muslim kids, Jewish kids, and Christian kids,” said Weiss.
I’m sure he thinks it was inclusive, but how many of those students don’t believe in God? How many of those players would rather pray in private? How many joined the prayer circle just so they wouldn’t be treated like outcasts? We have no idea.
Again, if the prayers are student-led, there’s nothing we can do about it — peer-pressure isn’t a crime — but I doubt this coach knows the true religious beliefs of every 13- and 14-year-old on that team. If I knew my coach was extremely religious, I’d probably lie about it just to make sure it didn’t hurt my chances of getting playing time.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)