A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Russell Davis delivered a sermon inside the locker room at Dawson County High School in Dawsonville, Georgia. His audience consisted of the high school football team, several younger students, and a few adults (possibly coaches) standing on the side.
“The Word says when they compelled him to carry the cross, and then Jesus went to the hill and he won the victory on the cross. Your goal tonight is not to die on the cross. It’s not to die on the field of battle,” Pastor Davis says in the video. “We’re calling you tonight to carry their cross.”
“Let’s pray together, Lord, we thank you, God, for another day,” Davis continues. “We thank you for an opportunity to play the game that we call football. Father, I pray that everything tonight will be for your glory.” He then leads the team in the Lord’s Prayer.
And just in case you think this was all a fluke, the team’s official website says the pastor from Etowah Church is part of the football staff where he serves as “character coach”:
This is an unnecessary position. There’s nothing wrong with teaching young athletes to be better people, but the current coaching staff ought to be more than capable of doing that. The position doesn’t need to be outsourced to a local pastor — in fact, it’s downright illegal.
It is well-settled law that schools cannot appoint or employ a chaplain, seek out a spiritual leader for students, or agree to have a volunteer teach other people’s children that character centers on religious belief, because public schools may not advance or promote religion, FFRF’s letter reminds the school.
The school “cannot allow non-school adults access to the children in its charge, and it certainly cannot grant that access to ministers seeking to grow and target their religious ministries using students,” FFRF Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Chris Line writes. “This is a violation of both students’ and parents’ rights.”
FFRF is requesting that Dawson County Schools investigate the complaint and take immediate action to ensure that its football program is no longer allowing religious leaders access to its students or violating students’ rights by promoting religion in their school.
A local newspaper notes that because all this went public before this past Friday’s game, the pre-game prayer that night didn’t involve any coaches. That’s a good start. But the District needs to go even further by ensuring that prayer will not be a formal part of the practices and that Davis will have no role with this team moving forward.
If the football players care about his religion that much, they can attend his church. He has no business being in their locker room.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)