The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheistic and agnostic group of self-proclaimed “free-thinkers,” is asking the Missouri school district to further investigate the actions of two football coaches at a public high school in Cameron, MO.
The FFRF claims that the coaches are forcing the student athletes to participate in Christian religious rituals.
According to the FFRF, head football coach Jeff Wallace and his assistant, David Stucky, have routinely prayed with players before and after games. The non-profit organization has also reported that the two coaches “read and discuss Bible verses” as well—something they see as unconstitutional.
“Coach Wallace’s conduct is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes his religion when acting in his official capacity as a school district employee,” said a letter that FFRF sent to Cameron High School Superintendent Matt Robinson at the end of October.
The letter continues: “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.”
Reporters from a local television station spoke with several parents and fans during a recent game as part of an unofficial survey to get their opinions on whether or not it was appropriate for the coaches to conduct the prayer gatherings.
Jeff Speer, whose sons both play for Cameron’s football program, told KCTV, “If it were a situation where a coach or even another student said, ‘Get over here and pray,’ and that kid didn’t want to be a part of it, I understand, but they all want to be a part of it.”
Speer also said that it’s completely voluntary and doesn’t represent school-led prayer at all. “They just say, ‘Okay, everybody bow your heads,’ and they have a moment of silence and everyone does their own individual prayer,” he told reporters.
“Other teams join. We’ve had almost every team we play this year come out, join on their own.”
At the closing of the FFRF’s letter sent to Superintendent Robinson, the group asked that “the District commence an investigation into the complaints alleged and take immediate action to stop any and all school-sponsored prayers or religious worship occurring within any District athletic program.”
Superintendent Robinson released a statement to the media announcing his decision to honor the organization’s request.
“The District will be performing an investigation into the allegations and concerns raised by the FFRF,” Robinson’s statement said. “The District will also take immediate interim measures to protect students… No local complaints were brought to the attention of [the] administration of the school district.”