Religion

School Apologizes For Coach's Prayer With Students

| by Michael Allen

The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently received an apology from the Vandalia School District in Illinois after Vandalia Community High School's basketball coach, Brian Buscher, prayed with students from his team and student players from Pana High School on Dec. 26, 2016.

In response to Buscher's prayer activity with the students, FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote a letter to the school district:

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Prayers may not be a scheduled part of any school-sponsored activity. Public school coaches must refrain not only from leading prayers themselves, but also from participating in students' prayers. It is unconstitutional for public school employees to participate in the religious activities of their students.

The school district soon responded via email: "Please accept our apology. Our Varsity Boys Basketball Coach Brian Buscher has been notified that NO COACHES are allowed to participate."

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"The coach should have known that he can't be a part of his students' prayer circle," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a press release. "However, we appreciate the district's action to uphold the First Amendment in the future."

This is not the first time an incident involving a coach and student prayer has happened in Illinois.

The FFRF noted in a February 2016 press release that coaches and staff were praying with student teams at Altamont High School, Dieterich High School and Pana High School.

The Pana boys' basketball team shared a picture of their players praying on Facebook in December 2015 with this caption: "We are thankful for God giving us the opportunity to show others His love. Win or lose, we are all victorious because of His love."

In response, the FFRF sent three school districts a letter:

The basketball coaches' conduct is unconstitutional because they endorse and promote religion when acting in their official capacities as school district representatives. When public school employees acting in their official capacities organize and advocate for team prayer, they effectively endorse religion on the district's behalf.

Sources: Freedom From Religion Foundation (2) / Photo Credit: Freedom From Religion Foundation

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