The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a group which promotes the separation of church and state, has asked the University of Toledo’s football team to stop praying before games.
The Ohio university is public and the FFRF claimed in a letter that head coach Matt Campbell violated the Constitution by praying before a game in 2012. The Supreme Court has deliberated on the issue of prayer in public schools before and ruled in the case of Santa Fe Independent School District vs. Doe that prayer before football hames violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Campbell, who is Catholic, told his players to huddle up in a tight circle. I’m going to say this: Every one of us has so much to be thankful for. A great night to play football, play with your brothers, OK? What an opportunity,” he told the team. “Let’s be grateful for it.”
He then knelt and led a prayer. “Players trying to please their coach or curry favor surely feel huge pressure to participate in the pregame prayer led by Coach Campbell,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s letter said.
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The letter said Campbell’s actions effective endorsed one religion over all others, regardless of the players’ beliefs or lack thereof. “By incorporating a Christian prayer into the team’s pregame activities, Coach Campbell sends a message of exclusion to those players on his team not in conformity with his personal religious beliefs,” the letter read.
It’s unclear if pre-game prayers are a common practice at the University of Toledo. “UT is in receipt of a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation regarding UT’s football program and is reviewing its contents,” UT spokesman Jon Strunk said in a statement. The complaint was allegedly brought by “a concerned alumnus.”