A Georgia high school football team has been told to keep prayers off the field because its actions are violating people’s Constitutional rights, according to an Atheist group.
Coaches at Chestatee High School in Gainesville – a public school – have come under attack by the American Humanist Association for including bible scriptures on the War Eagles’ team documents and banners and for leading players in prayer during practices and games, reports Fox News.
The organization sent a letter to officials at Hall County School District, making it clear that they thought the football team’s leaders were infringing upon First Amendment rights.
“We have been informed that the school’s football coaches have been using their position to promote Christianity on the football team by integrating Bible versus in to functional team documents and team promotions in various ways,” the letter read. “Meanwhile, they have been either leading the team in prayer or participating in team prayers on a regular basis.”
The AHA, which received an anonymous complaint about the prayers, threatened to sue the school district if it didn’t take action. The organization wants coaches to stop praying and to remove all religious quotes from its official team documents.
Some of the materials that have raised the alarm for them include a team workout log that includes references to bible scriptures, including one from Galations 6:9 that reads: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
AHA also criticized Head Coach Stan Luttrell for reportedly holding hands with team players and leading them in prayer.
Gordon Higgins, a spokesman for the school district, says it is taking this matter seriously, but that an investigation must take place before it can decide the best course of action, reports Gainesville Times.
“We are, by our duty, charged with upholding the constitutions of the United States and the state of Georgia,” Higgins said. “If there is a violation, we will take steps to make sure it is corrected.”
But students’ rights will not be violated, regardless of what the district decides to do, says Hall Superintendent Will Schofield.
“Certainly adults shouldn’t be leading children in prayers to any particular religion, but one thing we will stand behind is our students’ right to prayer,” Schofield said.