Students in an East Texas town gave their support for their high school baseball coach, after allegations surfaced he violated the student's First Amendment rights.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that advocates for the separation between church and state, announced earlier this week that it plans to investigate whether Pittsburg High School baseball coach Tommy Stewart forced religion upon his athletes.
According to the complaint filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Stewart leads a Bible class after practice, and punishes players who do not attend by making them run extra laps.
The group also states that one of the practices jerseys worn by players, which has the phrase "with God, all things are possible," violates the Constitution.
Students at the school rushed to Stewart’s defense, saying Bible study is optional for students on the team.
"We are a team that supports God,” said Dalton Warrick, an athlete on the Pittsburg’s varsity baseball team. “Nothing is forced on us."
Warrick added Stewart coached him for the last two seasons. This past year, Warrick said he never attended the Bible study classes.
"We've never been punished because we didn't go (to the Bible study)," he said. “Conditioning is a part of baseball.”
Some students at the school said they saw mixed reactions from their peers about the allegations.
"There does seem to be some anger, but as we are standing firm for God, striking in anger and rebellion is not the way,” said senior Ana Johnson.
Despite the anger of some students, Johnson said she thinks the allegations helped remind students of their values.
"It was surreal for (the students),” Johnson said. “They realized that these are the moments that we need to hang on to because they might get taken away from us."
Photo Credit: Richard Dawkins Foundation