A national humanist organization is investigating claims made by parents of a Texas high school student athlete, whose coach allegedly forces players to attend a Bible class.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based First Amendment rights group, wrote a letter to the school board about football coach Tommy Stewart’s Bible study class on behalf of two Pittsburg, Texas, high school parents.
“It's as if Christianity is being forced down their throats,” said the student’s mother, who asked to remain anonymous.
According to the student’s mother, Stewart tells players they have a choice between attending a Bible class after practice or running additional laps.
Pittsburg Independent School District Superintendent Judy Pollan said the allegations are untrue.
“He has about 30 boys and only 10 stay behind for a couple of sessions, so that tells you right there that it's not mandatory,” Pollan said. “He may show a movie or do studies on different things, but the whole purpose is to develop character and a winning attitude.”
Pollan said she thinks players know that the meetings are optional.
In addition to the Bible class, the organization's letter also criticized the football team’s practice uniforms. The shirt has the phrase "With God, all things are possible."
Pollan said the shirts are optional to wear.
“I asked [a player] if everyone had to wear it and he told me, 'yes, it's not an option,'” Pollan said.
A lawyer from the Freedom From Religion Foundation said the group plans to investigate the parents’ allegation.
“It doesn't matter if the students are requesting these things,” said attorney Sam Grover. “As a school official, a coach cannot lead a Bible study during school or during school sponsored activities.”