Football coaches at Chestatee High School in Gainesville, Georgia are facing criticism for leading their team in prayer and including scripture on official team documents.
Jennifer Brown from the Gainsville Times reports that the Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) claims that the coaches are in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment that enforces separation of church and state and prohibits the government from favoring a religion over another.
The group, which is the legal branch of the American Humanist Association (AHA), is acting on behalf of a concerned citizen.
The spokesperson for the Hall County District, Gordon Higgins, says that the district is waiting to act once more research is done surrounding the allegations.
“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,” said Hall Superintendent Will Schofield, who was out of town Tuesday and had not yet seen the letter.
Joshua Rhett Miller for Fox News reports, AHA attorney Monica Miller declares the actions of Head Coach Stan Luttrell unconstitutional.
“There’s really no defense for doing this,” AHA attorney Monica Miller told Fox News.. “It’s not even solely student prayer — it’s teachers and coaches praying with students. And we have reason to believe it’s not an isolated event.”
In the letter that the AHLC wrote to the school’s principal, chairman of the Board of Education and superintendent, the group sites the Lemon test. It state that the government proactive must “(1) have a secular purpose; (2) not have the effect of advancing or endorsing religion; and (3) not foster excessive entanglement with religion”
AHA gathered pictorial evidence to support its claims. The images included one of the team and coach holding hands in prayer and practice sheet with the text “Fortitude 2014, Gal. 6:9” written on it. Finally a picture of a banner created by cheerleaders that reads “Iron sharpens Iron, Proverbs 21:17”.
In the letter, the school has been asked to discontinue prayer and remove the quoted scripture from official team worksheets and game day banners.
Locals in Gainesville, a town of 34,000 that is 54% white, have not taken kindly to the letter. An editorial written by Todd Starnes from Fox News says that 200 people attended an impromptu prayer rally in the middle of the Chestatee High School football field.
Locals took to the phone lines of the local radio station WDUN to air their greivances with the ‘attack’.
“I am a mom of two of the football players on the CHS football team and I consider it an honor and a privilege to have my boys on a team that is led by men that believe and trust in God,” one caller said. “I think it’s a shame for one person to try and take that away from them.”
Congressman Collins asserts that the self-proclaimed atheist group is picking on high school students. He said he wants the students to know that he supports them and is praying for them.