Earlier this month, in a local newspaper’s article about how student-led prayers after football games were absolutely legal, there was a picture that showed — wait for it — Coach Bill Collick of Cape Henlopen High School either leading or joining his team in prayer (both of which are unconstitutional):
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the the district about the prayer and, as you might imagine, people are very upset that anyone is calling them out on their legal violations, including an opposing coach who also prays with his team:
As Brandywine coach Tom Wood said on Friday, “If that’s all people have to complain about me, I’m doing a good job.”
To paraphrase: If the only complaint people have about me is that I’m breaking the law, I must be a damn good coach!
The letter seems to have had some power though. On Friday night, the coaches remained on the sidelines when their teams prayed:
That was the case Friday night, as the Vikings gathered following their home game against Sussex Tech. Collick and his assistants were close to the group, but they weren’t part of the group. And that makes all the difference.
“We’re satisfied with that,” Cavell said. “We’re expecting that staff, including coaches, are not going to be participating in prayers with the students in the future.”
And in another case of a local journalist inadvertently pointing out legal problems at schools, Brad Myers of The News Journal mentioned that he didn’t think this prayer thing was a big deal because everyone’s doing it:
Over the last two weeks, I alerted our photographers to cover the postgame prayers at two football games. On Oct. 11, we photographed Wood participating in a prayer with his Brandywine team following a game at Mount Pleasant. On Oct. 18, we photographed Lake Forest coach Freddie Johnson participating in a prayer with his team following a home win over Laurel.
We didn’t do it to single out Wood or Johnson, or Brandywine or Lake Forest. We won’t be sending this to the FFRF for immediate action, but I’m pretty sure the Internet has reached Wisconsin. Don’t be surprised if these school districts receive letters from Cavell soon.
Well, if they haven’t received those letters already, they will now. (Thanks, Brad!)
Myers actually defends the prayers by saying:
I have never seen any evidence of a player being pressured or required to participate, and I have seen some players choose not to participate.
But he misses the point. He can’t read the minds of these players. Who knows how many of them joined the prayer circle because they felt pressured or because they thought their playing time (and, therefore, potential scholarships) would be affected by not joining in? And how much more coercion would they feel if the coach was part of the prayer circle?
It’s entirely possible for openly Muslim or Jewish players to sit out during the prayers without alienating their Christian teammates.
It’s not nearly that simple for closeted atheists, because questions about why they’re not participating will almost certainly come up.
“Before the first time we do it, I throw it out there that this is strictly voluntary,” Brandywine coach Tom Wood said Friday. “You do not have to participate if it goes against your religious beliefs. I’m not pushing my religion on anybody.”
Yeah… that’s what they say. But students shouldn’t be put in the position of having to figure out if their coach means that or if they’ll be treated differently for not joining in.
A better coach would know that.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)