OWASSO, Okla. — An acclaimed high school baseball coach is under fire from a prominent atheist activist organization for allegedly leading his team in prayers before games.
Larry Turner, 56, was named the best high school baseball coach in the United States last year as he was dubbed the 2013 National Baseball Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations. He has won ten state championships over his 32-year tenure and averages 31 wins per season.
In addition to coaching youth at Owasso High School, Turner also focuses on teaching youth to be a blessing to society. According to reports, the team has supported the Special Olympics, visited war veterans and has spent time reading to children.
But because Turner reportedly also leads his team in prayer, as well as some of the assistant coaches, he is now under fire from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which is urging the superintendent of Owasso Public Schools to put an end to the practice. The group states that it received a complaint from a “concerned citizen” that it left unidentified.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based organization sent a letter to Superintendent Clark Ogilvie on Monday, outlining the complaint and asserting that the prayers are a “serious violation of the First Amendment.”
“The coaches’ apparent organizing and obvious participation in a team prayer constitutes an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion,” a letter written by FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel stated.
He requested an investigation into the matter and that the district disallow coaches from leading prayers.
“Owasso Public Schools must take immediate action to ensure that coaches do not lead, organize, encourage or participate in prayers with their teams,” Seidel wrote. “We ask that the school district commence an immediate investigation into the complaints alleged and take immediate action to stop all school-sponsored prayers occurring at any district events.”
It is not yet known whether the district plans to respond to the letter, nor whether the allegations against Turner are true.
As previously reported, FFRF also took issue earlier this year that Mooresville High School football coach Hal Capps of North Carolina was leading his team in prayer before games. Superintendent Mark Edwards ordered Capps to discontinue the practice as a result of the organization’s complaint, stating that it was a “violation of the separation of church and state.”
However, many local residents expressed their support for the coach.
“I believe what the Bible says,” Belvin Sherrill told WBTV. “It upsets that some people can just dictate what you do because of their beliefs and not take into consideration your own.”
“I think the man, the coach, should be able to pray with his players or anybody else that he wants too,” resident Betty Lambert also remarked to the outlet. “That’s our right; we as Christians have stood back too long.”