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Atheist Group Tells Coaches Not to Pray With Students, Students Take Matters Into Own Hands

The atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation thought they won the battle against Georgia’s East Coweta High School by sending them a letter saying it’s unacceptable for the coaches to lead or participate in prayer with student athletes.

In some way they succeeded in their idea: The coaches didn’t lead the players in prayer but that doesn’t mean that the students will become atheists.

WAGA-TV reported that during the game, Friday, East Coweta High School had more than just the football players bowing their heads.

John Small, East Coweta coach said the Christian Post: “Our students have done a great job and our students took it upon themselves to organize a prayer with our students in the stands before the game. Instead of it being 100 players praying, it turned into 400 students praying. That’s their right and we are going to support them in that.”

It all began on October 25 when FFRF sent a warning letter to Superintendent Steve Barker about the coaches who lead the players in prayer.

FFRFnoted the district “that it is illegal for public school athletic coaches to further personal religious beliefs by leading their teams in prayer. Coach-led prayers, FFRF points out, equate to a government advancement and endorsement of religion — a stark violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

“Not only must public school coaches refrain from leading prayer themselves, but also from participating in students’ prayers, FFRF informed the district. When a public-school employee in that official role organizes and advocates for team prayer, religion is endorsed on the district’s behalf.”

According to a memorandum, if the students led the prayer, the coaches can be there for it, but they couldn’t “bow their heads” or “manifest approval.”

“We are not allowed to be in the middle of it but we have a right to be there with our players. We don’t have to flee (the scene),” Small stated for Christian Post.

“If my head is bowed, nobody can tell me what I am thinking. I am not leading the prayer. I am there supporting my kids. Whether I am praying or not, nobody can say I am or I ain’t.”

Anyhow, on Friday players led the prayer, and more students joined them bowing their heads.

Small believes this behavior on the field “really turned into a positive” for the team.

“I think what is happened with this organization (FFRF), whatever their intent was, you tell teenagers they can’t do something, surely they are going to do it,” Small said. “It has really turned into a positive because at the end of the day, we are trying to teach students about leadership and they should be the ones taking the charge on it anyway.”

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