There will come a day when high school football coaches understand there’s a separation between church and state and refrain from pushing their own religious beliefs on their players.
That day hasn’t come yet.
In Florida, football players at three schools in the Alachua County School District are participating in a Fellowship of Christian Athletes summer camp at the urging of their coaches. Those same coaches apparently pray with the athletes “before and after meals and games.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is trying to put a stop to this illegal promotion of Christianity before the camp begins.
The coach of Gainesville High School’s team described the camp and a team activity to “emphasize faith,” stating that everyone can benefit from learning Christian values…
“Requiring or even encouraging students to attend a Christian camp sends the message of approval of the camp’s religious messages to impressionable students,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel. “This practice forces children, who may be of varying faiths or none at all, to enter into a Christian house of worship in order to participate in school sports.”
This use of Christian camps for public school programming is especially inappropriate considering that it excludes nearly 30 percent of Americans, including approximately 45 percent of Millennials, who are not Christian. And merely allowing students to opt out of the religious events will not cure the violation. Taking the entire high school team to a camp with such an overt religious mission as part of a team-bonding activity ostracizes any student who opts not to participate.
Even if the coaches thought prayer would be innocuous, you’d think they’d know they’re crossing the line when promoting a summer camp run by a Christian ministry. But if they were getting away with the prayers, why not go even further?
This is why these violations of the law have to be stopped early and often. If no one takes action, Christians like these will keep proselytizing more overtly.
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