Coaches Can't Participate

November 6, 2017

On October 25, the Coweta County School System in Georgia received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It claimed that East Coweta County High School Head Footbal Coach, John Small, committed a “serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment” by praying with students.

According to, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit that works to ensure separation of church and state, cited court cases as precedent for its argument. Christopher Line, a member of the organization who wrote the letter, said that because Small led the prayer while “acting in his official capacity as a school district employee,” his actions violated the Constitution.

“It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer,” Line said. “The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools.”

Nathan T. Lee, an attorney for Glover & Davis P.A., made a statement that Steve Barker, the school's superintendent, had spoken with the principals of the district's three high schools, asking them to ensure that no staff or volunteers participate in or lead prayers or other religious activities at high school football games. In response, Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion foundation, expressed approval for the decision.

“We appreciate the district’s swift action to address the violation and its commitment to protecting the rights of conscience for all of its students,” Gaylor said.

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