Coaches and Prayer

November 29, 2017

To ensure separation of church and state, as required by the First Amendment, coaches and teachers are not allowed to pray with students while serving in their school roles. After Andy Hape, Head Football Coach at Reitz High School in Evansville, Ind., was seen praying with his team, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a statement, calling it a “serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment."

According to the Courier & Press, someone reported the issue to the Freedom From Religion Foundation after seeing a photo in the October 20 edition of the Courier & Press' Westside edition, which shows Hape's head lowered in prayer. In response, the group asked the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp to investigate Hape and ensure he does not pray with the students in the future.

"It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers, or to otherwise promote religion to students," Ryan Jayne, the group's attorney, wrote in a letter to the EVSC.

According to EVSC policy on religious observance and ceremonies, corporation staff are not allowed to “use prayer, religious readings, or religious symbols as a devotional exercise or in an act of worship or celebration” in order to avoid giving the appearance that the school is sponsoring prayer.

"The rights of the minority, no matter how small, must be protected," the district rules state. "No matter how well intended, either official or unofficial sponsorship of religiously-orientated activities by the school are offensive to some and tend to supplant activities which should be an exclusive province of individual religious groups, churches, private organizations, or the family."


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