Before I rip into the Cannon County High School football team, let’s say some nice things about them.
They have a female kicker who’s very talented! That’s awesome for her and says a lot about the guys on the team for making her feel so welcome.
They also have a roster of 30 athletes who seem to be passionate, and you have to respect students who are willing to put in the time and effort required of a football team.
Okay. All that aside, there’s a serious problem with the team. The coaches have practically turned it into a church (the article is behind a paywall):
… these Lions have done several things hoping to bring the squad together. Some of those team building, faith-based attitude exercises include attending different churches around the area, listening to devotionals before the big game, and watching religious football films.
“It is not something most teams do,” CCHS senior quarterback Brady Page said. “We get together as a team and we go do something that is bigger than ourselves, even bigger than football.”
The idea of these faith-based trips came from current Lions head coach T. J. Daniels a few seasons ago.
“It is hard to explain, because we went one year and it just snowballed,” Daniels said after practice a few days ago. “Churches wanted us to come and visit, and we said, ‘This is a good thing.’ We do not make it mandatory. We are like, ‘Hey we are going to church together, and we would love for you to go.’ We go visit and they feed us. It just kind of happens.”
During the past few seasons, the Lions have attended several area churches from varied viewpoints, First Baptist, Woodbury Church of Christ and Ivy Bluff. Many of the sermons touch on life’s lessons both on and off the field.
All of that is illegal.
If the students wanted to do this on their own, it’d be fine, but that’s not the case. This is coach-led Christian proselytizing. When it’s taking place during practice, there’s nothing “voluntary” about it.
Need something more explicit?
In addition to attending the different churches, the Lions listen to a devotional given the day before the game by Andy Herzer, founder of the 1st Shot Organization and a former MTSU basketball coach. Similar to what the players gather from their church visits, Herzer gives faith based life lessons dealing with adversity and other topics to the players and the Lions coaching staff.
These things are not taking place off the field. It’s just part of being on the football team. Good luck being a member who’s not Christian. You have two choices: play along or be ostracized.
At least God has rewarded them for all this devotion, right?
Not even close.
They currently have a winless 0-8 record, they’ve been outscored 366-81, and they’ve only won three games in the past six years.
Again, I’m not trashing the players. Good for them for making the effort. But the adults leading that team should know better. If they want to inspire the kids, there are ways to do it that don’t involve pushing Christianity onto the students. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen and it’s a wonder the District hasn’t put a stop to it.
FFRF has been informed of the violation.
You know, one mark of good coaches is that they change strategies if something isn’t working. If this were a professional team, God would have been benched a long time ago. I’m sure a lot of the students love their coaching staff, but this isn’t a church retreat. It’s a public high school and the coach needs to decide whether he wants to preach or coach.
(Image via Shutterstock)