Football coaches at a school in north central Pennsylvania have been instructed to stop joining in pre-game prayers with players after a prominent professing atheist group recently contacted the school district to complaint about the practice.
According to reports, a resident of Danville contacted the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to advise that coaches and players at Danville High School had been praying and singing praise songs together prior to football games. A video had circulated on social media showing the team singing the Rich Mullins tune “Our God Is an Awesome God.”
“This tradition of Christian prayer and worship songs reinforces the otherness of students like my children who are non-Christian,” another parent, Shakil Afridi, told the Sunbury Daily Item. “My friends who tend to be non-Christian or progressive Christians and some social justice Catholics are disgusted by this.” FFRF sent a letter to Superintendent Cheryl Latorre to request that an investigation be conducted and that the matter be rectified.
“As you may be aware, it is illegal for public school athletic coaches to organize or participate in prayer with their teams,” the organization wrote. “We write to ensure that the district does not allow its coaches to proselytize students or to promote their personal religious beliefs in the future.”
As a result, Latorre has instructed coaches not to join the students in any prayer or worship, pointing to case law.
“Prayer can occur in a public school if it is student-driven and that our coaches are not to participate in any way,” she told local television station WNEP. “We’ve instituted the case law. We’ve made sure this isn’t happening.”