Coach-Led Prayers No Longer Allowed at South Dakota High School Following Complaint

Football pdABERDEEN, S.D. — Coach-led prayers are no longer allowed at a high school in South Dakota after a prominent atheist activist organization sent a letter of complaint asking that the practice be discontinued.

Officials with the Aberdeen School District recently received a letter from the Madison,Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) surrounding an anonymous complaint it received that Aberdeen High School Coach Mike Flakus and his assistant coaches were allegedly leading the school’s football team in prayer before games.

“It is illegal for a public school to organize, sponsor or lead prayers at public school events,” the letter, which included a photograph from a local newspaper, stated. “More notably, federal courts have specifically held public school coaches’ participation in their team’s prayer circles unconstitutional.”

It asked that the district put an end to the coaches’ participation in pre-game prayers.

“Aberdeen School District must take immediate action to ensure that coaches do not lead, organize, encourage or participate in prayers with their teams,” the correspondence continued. “The coaches’ apparent organizing and obvious participation in a team prayer constitutes an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.”

In response, Superintendent Becky Guffin replied by advising that an investigation had been conducted as requested, and that coaches were instructed not to pray with the team.

“We have completed an exhaustive investigation, and we were unable to identify any further violations of this constitutional requirement,” she wrote in the short reply. “All members of the administrative leadership team and coaching staff have received follow-up correspondence which instructs them not to organize, encourage, or participate in student prayer at any event sponsored by the district.”

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But not everyone is pleased with the decision to keep the school’s coaches out of the huddle. Bob Myers, pastor of First Baptist Church of Aberdeen, told the Associated Press that he disagrees with FFRF’s assertions.

“I think it is appropriate for coaches to join students in their prayer. After all they are a team, and the coach is part of a team. He is part of that community,” Myers said. “I think as long as students initiate it, the coach has every right to express himself in that same way.  . . . There’s all kinds of school districts that are saying this can’t be done, and you can’t do this, but I think that’s a violation of the coach’s religious rights under the constitution.”

As previously reported, last month, a football coach in Arizona was suspended for two weeks for praying with his team. Tom Brittain, the head varsity coach for Tempe Preparatory Academy, a state-funded charter school, received much support following his suspension as some area residents wore t-shirts and/or brought signs to the homecoming game to speak out in favor of the coach. Students also tied a poster to the stands during the game, which read, “We believe in Coach Brittain.” Personal messages were additionally written on the poster, such as “I love you. God bless you, coach,” and “Thank you.” Some students drew a cross or shared Scripture.

“I think it’s outrageous,” area resident Keith Wibel told reporters. “Ray Rice gets two games for cold-cocking his fiancée and Tom Brittain gets two games for praying.”


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  • Jackie Fenolio

    Every Christian should gather together and kneel on the field and pray the Lord’s Prayer just as they did in another town. The atheists and complainers can do their own thing.

    • Renee

      I think people are upset because they know that prayer helps. So they are afraid or intimidated by it. I think perhaps some people don’t want their kids to be persuaded or invited or be around praying to a GOD that exists and that they will feel the power of the Holy Spirit and know its real.

  • Gail Petersen

    I just don’t get it. How can these so-called atheists be so offended by something or SOMEONE that they don’t even believe exists. I bet every one of them will go out and spend hundreds of dollars on Christmas presents to celebrate a holiday that they don’t believe in. I am tired of these people having it both ways. You either believe or you don’t and if you don’t, you have nothing to complain about or celebrate.

    • Ralph Spoilsport

      Wrong. By having public school coaches lead prayer, they’re violating the religious rights of students.

      How would you like it if your son was in school, and the coach led Muslim prayers? Maybe your son wouldn’t make the team if he didn’t join in — he wouldn’t really know, would he?

      That’s why coach-led prayers are coercive, and why they have to stop.

      • Tanya Benedict

        Nobody is making these kids pray. People are upset cause these kids respond to it. They are threatened by it! Good for those kids! If the coach can’t lead. Let the kids lead! What a great message of hope!

        • Ralph Spoilsport

          Nobody is making these kids pray.

          That doesn’t remove the constitutional problems.

      • joe

        At what point did they sat students were being forced, coerced out obligated in any way?

        • Ambulance Chaser

          They didn’t. There exists no such requirement for a state action to be unconstitutional.

          • jmichael39

            well, let’s make one thing clear…there’s no such requirement in the laws as the Courts of the past 70 years have INTERPRETED the Constitution…it was clearly not how the founders or the early courts viewed this issue. So, you’ll forgive us if we constitutionalists here determine to compel our courts to return to interpreting the Constitution in accordance with its original intent.

          • Ralph Spoilsport

            So, you’ll forgive us if we constitutionalists here determine to compel our courts to return to interpreting the Constitution in accordance with its original intent.

            And when Mulsim coaches start leading students in Muslim prayers, you’ll have no cause to complain.

          • jmichael39

            why would I complain? I will tell players who don’t want to participate to either stand silent out of respect or step away until he’s done. Is that so difficult?

      • Maranatha2011

        I’m pretty sure no one was coerced. Hard as it is to accept, for non believers, no believer resents being led in prayer. It is a non issue for non-believers, they have no one to pray to, and I’ll wager no one was ‘coerced.’ However, if believing students want to lead the prayer for whomever wishes to participate, no fault can be found…unless of course, the real goal is to prohibit everyone from praying in any public venue.

        • Ralph Spoilsport

          I’m pretty sure no one was coerced.

          By definition, coach-led prayers are coercive. He decides who plays and who sits on the bench.

      • jmichael39

        If my son were in school and some teacher or coach wanted to lead him in a Muslim prayer I would teach my son to simply say, “no thank you.” and walk away until the ‘prayer’ was done. So sorry, your atheist friends don’t know how to teach their children to stand up for their beliefs. Time to grow up, guys.

        • James Grimes

          They don’t want to grow up. They would lose their life’s purpose. They chose to remain ignorant and insignificant so that they can sit back and complain. It takes a man to do what’s right and to be productive.

        • Doug Indeap

          Suggesting that those who claim to be offended by unconstitutional government actions should just “grow up” and walk away misses the point. This has nothing to do with good manners or individual fortitude; rather, it is about constraining the government to act in accordance with the Constitution. Accordingly, they seek to challenge the government’s actions in court to accomplish just that. The court will not hear such a challenge by just anyone though; only those with a sufficient personal stake, e.g., those somehow injured (e.g., offended) by the government action, will be heard. Growing up and walking away may be cool, and it may demonstrate inner strength and all, but it won’t get you into court.

      • William Mazeo

        Well the interesting part is that when people forbid Christian related stuff the only group that is getting stronger is *insert dramatic music here*… the muslims!
        When God is not there the evil arrives, there is no “middle ground”.
        I don’t get why atheists would rather live in a islamic state than a Christian nation that would be all about respect and guess what? Freedom!
        Yes, we don’t want stuff like same sex “marriage” or gay people adopting kids because we want the nation to prosper but nobody is going to kill you for being gay if you want to be.

        • Ralph Spoilsport

          Well the interesting part is that when people forbid Christian related stuff the only group that is getting stronger is *insert dramatic music here*… the muslims!

          Don’t worry, the FFRF fights against Muslim hegemony too.

          • William Mazeo

            No worries, they soon will be under muslims control too.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      We aren’t offended by God. We don’t believe in any God. We’re offended by what his followers are doing, and there is no debate about whether Christians are real.

      In any case, people being offended are beside the point. It’s irrelevant whether anyone is or is not offended by this action. The fact remains that it’s unconstitutional. That’s all that matters.

      • James Grimes

        And you clowns are hanging out here, a Christian site???????

        • Ambulance Chaser

          I can’t speak for any of the other clowns, but this clown is hanging out here because I feel that I can facilitate some understanding about certain topics.

          • James Grimes

            Yes, you may learn something by listening. No one ever learned anything by talking.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I’m waiting.

          • James Grimes

            Six hours later… are you still waiting?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Actually, yes. I’m waiting for you. You said you were going to teach me something. I’m sitting here waiting patiently for you to say something.

          • James Grimes

            “You said you were going to teach me something.” WRONG. I never said that. Looking at your comments on this forum, it is obvious that you are NOT open to learning anything from a Christian, so I don’t think people will be wasting their time trying.
            So, you should continue to wait patiently.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I’m absolutely open to learning and if you have something you’d like to teach me, I’m more than happy to listen. But so far you haven’t said anything except insults.

      • Maranatha2011

        Praying in public is certainly not ‘unconstitutional.’ Anti-God minions like you, always jump on the thoughtless band wagon. Separation of church & state was meant to protect churches, not the state. By praying on a sports field, no one is establishing any religion. Studying the constitution from an unbiased perspective is in order.
        Be honest, anyone praying in public view galls you, am I right? I suggest you live & let live.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Nope. I don’t care about anyone praying as long as it’s not a government official acting in his or her official capacity.

          I also quoted some case law establishing that it’s unconstitutional. Your best move now would be to try and quote some case law saying I’m wrong, or argue my law is wrong.

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/EyrtheFyre Regina Forbes

            I’m offended by everything you’ve ever said here and citing the precedent in the article above, I have the right to sue you into silence. I know I’ll find some lawyer who’ll want to get paid to shut down the freedom of speech. They’ve done it already.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Uh, no. There is no precedent for suing me into silence. But I’d love to see you try.

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/EyrtheFyre Regina Forbes

            I’m so offended by that statement.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            If you’re trying to make some kind of point, I have no idea what it is.

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/EyrtheFyre Regina Forbes

            Ma’am, please calm down.

        • James Grimes

          When everything is said and done, his comments are meaningless and his presence on this site is insignificant.

          • Woody Chuck

            “his presence on this site is insignificant.”

            But yours and everyone who agrees with you is significant…

      • jmichael39

        It is only “unconstitutional” because of activist judges in the past 70 years. Nothing has changed in the Constitution on this issue it 150 years and yet, despite how the courts ruled on similar issues from our founding until about 70 years ago (50 years ago with regards to school prayer itself). Its only by some activist interpretation of the first amendment that we now live under this idiocy.

        BTW, what are HIs followers doing in this instance that offends you so much?

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Nonetheless, it’s the law.

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/EyrtheFyre Regina Forbes

            “… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

          • jmichael39

            So what? So was slavery for a hundred years. Does that mean we Christians are supposed to accept it and just bow down to kiss the ring of the atheists because they got their way through activism of nine men in robes? Both CNN and Wall Street Journal have reported within the past few weeks that a clear majority of Americans WANT more religion in our public arenas and politics. Just because its the current way the SCOTUS interprets the Constitution does not mean we’re going to sit still and take it. And if you don’t like it then I suggest you get ready for a fight.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            There’s a long and storied history in this country of citizens changing the law. You can do that too. Or at least you’re welcome to try.

            What you can’t do is pretend the law says something other than what it says because you don’t like it. If you want to change the case law, start filing suits or promoting a Constitutional Amendment. But until you succeed, the law is the law.

          • jmichael39

            and there is a long and storied history of civil disobedience to unacceptable laws…such as what is happening to those preachers in Houston right now. So you’ll just have to figure out whether you’re okay with us changing those laws or whether you want to fight it or not.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I’m perfectly okay with people using the democratic process to change unjust laws.

            But that’s not what you’re doing. You are acting like laws you don’t like are nonexistent and expecting people to follow other, fictitious laws that you prefer existed. If you want to change laws, be my guest. But you have to actually change them, not just act like you already did.

          • jmichael39

            BS…we’re talking about laws that are based upon poor court rulings…and we’re fighting to overturn them…sometimes civil disobedience is necessary. Neither an attempt to overturn something or civilly protest it is by any means acting like the law doesn’t exist. If we were acting like the law didn’t exist why would need to fight it or protest it?

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/EyrtheFyre Regina Forbes

        So what exactly are the actions you are offended by? Just curious.

      • Terry Chesnut

        Constitution only says congress shall make no laws … any other action of the fed relating to religion is not mentioned and states are not restricted unless by their own state constitution. States can favor religions all they like put up displays whatever. Recently a supreme court justice reaffirmed this truth in a speech he gave.

    • concern00

      These atheists are actually anti-theist. They are unwitting pawns being manipulated by forces in which they do not to believe. I don’t envy the side they have chosen.

    • Tanya Benedict

      Fact is they are antithiests! Not “no religion” but “anti-religion”

    • Maranatha2011

      They aren’t offended, necessarily, by God, just by the fact that anyone else believes in Him. Their goal is to deprive any & all believers from free exercise of their faith. Mostly, they hate the cross, just as their father, Satan does.

    • Doug Indeap

      Here’s the deal: We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; each of us has that freedom. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that–REGARDLESS of whether anyone is offended.

      While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with “standing” (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government’s failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.

    • Woody Chuck

      I wonder if you ever placed a coin as or found one placed under your pillow by the Tooth Fairy?

      Unless you believe in the Tooth Fairy, then you can no longer participate in that celebration of a child losing a tooth.

    • Woody Chuck

      Any dummy knows that Christmas is actually about Santa Claus. Unless you believe in him, then you can’t participate.

  • Vito Zabala Halasan

    there’s no doubt, God’s enemy are indeed exist.

  • James Grimes

    “received a letter from the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) surrounding an anonymous complaint it received…” This is all they are good for. The Useless strike again.

    • Renee

      And if they believe in their cause Atheism, why the anonymity?

    • Maranatha2011

      The problem with them is they can’t be content with being free from’ religion,’ they demand that everybody else to be free from believing, whether they want to or not!

  • dawnrosanne

    Coaches have the right to pray and show their faith, in private and in public. It’s their 1st Ammendment Constitutional rights. A coach praying does not mean he is endorsing or converting students; it simply means he is expressing his own views, which he as a right to do. The Freedom From Religion bullies are at it again, and their aim is to silence every Christian in the public square. That’s why as Christians, we can’t be intimidated or back down from our God and Constitutionally given rights.

    • Tanya Benedict

      Amen!

    • Ambulance Chaser

      Coaches do have that right in private. In public they still have that right EXCEPT when acting in their capacity as representatives of the state.Engel v. Vitale, Abington v. Schemp, and Santa Fe v. Doe

      • jmichael39

        Engel v Vitale nowhere says anything about a person acting in the capacity as a representative of the state. It strictly and exclusively dealt with prayers SPONSORED by the school. Nowhere in this case is there any evidence that the school is ‘sponsoring’ this prayer.

        Abington v Schempp was exactly the same thing, just one year later.

        Santa Fe v Doe does address this case more appropriately. Though in this case, it was the students themselves who were ruled to be not permitted to lead the voluntary non-sectarian prayers. The ruling was utterly ridiculous in light of US History. The Court concluded that the football game prayers were public speech authorized by a government policy and taking place on government property at government-sponsored school-related events and that the District’s policy involved both perceived and actual government endorsement of the delivery of prayer at important school events. The fact that the Court would somehow think it the intent of the Founders that government property should be wholly void of religion is utterly ridiculous in light of historical realities and the fact that nothing in the Constitution has changed in this regard since the foundation of our country.

  • pastoredsmith

    Atheists want one thing….to make every public place “atheist zones” (they call them “religion free zones” SAME THING). It is time that Christians band together and fire the officials who caved into the bullying demands of these atheist thugs and take our schools back! Once-upon-a-time in this country, the Bible was the main textbook….for many, many years. Until the church awakens, this will continue. Now, I predict a flurry of atheists will attack my post here. They will say “how can we be mad at God when we don’t believe in him” or “America is a religion-neutral country.” Just so you know, atheists who might respond to this, please come up with something credible. Your tired arguments are beyond lame.

  • Tanya Benedict

    I encourage that the kids lead then!!!

  • Tanya Benedict

    I’m tired of athiests forcing their belief on people!

    • Bolvon72

      Well, I guess you finally understand the annoyance, even if you’ve not the empathy for it.

  • Renee

    This is disgraceful, and how was this bothering the person that complained? He wasn’t asked to join in? How heartbreaking for God to see such behavior. There will be a day very soon, when everyone will take a knee and bow before God Almighty.

  • david ramseur

    In today’s America, there is no more freedom of religious expression or freedom of speech if you are a high school coach. The government has taken those God-given rights away from citizens who happen to be public school employees. How the government thinks it has the authority to do so is beyond me. The constitution has obviously limited the government from infringing upon the 1st amendment rights of all American citizens.
    Yet, there are those who interpret the 1st amendment backwards. Their interpretation is not from the straight forward wording of the amendment, neither does it come from court precedent pre-1940’s. This trampling of religious liberty comes from a purposely misunderstood passage from one letter of Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence. Instead of the constitution protecting religious expression from government, as it was originally intended, the government is now protected from religious expression.

  • milwaukeeprogressiveexaminer

    Strange how often “student led” is just a code word for a coach or school doing the leading.

    • jmichael39

      so freaking what…when did it become constitutional that when you suddenly are on government property or are working for the government that you have fewer constitutionally protected rights.

    • James Grimes

      Strange? The only thing here that is strange is the bizarre behavior of The Useless.

  • Reason2012

    It is not illegal for a team to choose to have a prayer. That is a flat out lie.

    (1) There is no such thing as “separation of church and state” in the Constitution. That phrase came from the time a Pastor wrote a letter to Jefferson expressing his fears that Jefferson would in some way restrict religious freedoms. In response to these fears, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter back to indicate that he would in no way restrict the freedom of religious expression because he saw a wall of separation between church and state.

    So actually the phrase means the exact opposite of what a few claim it means: it re-iterates the First Amendment, that government shall make no laws prohibiting the free exercise of religious expression.

    (2) First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; And yet those who reject God demand the government establish its own denomination of Christianity with its own version of marriage. A violation of the First Amendment.

    (3) Congress/government also cannnot make a law prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    A school can decide to, for example, put up Ten Commandment displays and no one can force them not to.

    A school can decide NOT to put up Ten Commandment displays and no one can force them to.

    But in a Christian nation, the populace will be personally choosing to put up Ten Commandment displays often. Those that do not like this can start voting in a large number of people that believe differently and hope it changes.

    That’s liberty.

    That’s freedom.

    That’s the Constitution many died to create.

    That’s the United States of America.

    Start understanding the Constitution, the First Amendment and the lie about “separation to church and state” and take back our right to honor and worship God as people in positions of leadership personally choose and see fit to on a case by case basis.

    • Doug Indeap

      Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution, much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the first place, the Supreme Court has thoughtfully, authoritatively, and repeatedly decided as much; it is long since established law. In the second place, the Court is right. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) according that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

      To the extent that some would like confirmation–in those very words–of the founders’ intent to separate government and religion, Madison and Jefferson supplied it. Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that were the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Rather, the Court discussed the historical context in which the Constitution and First Amendment were drafted, noting the expressed understanding of Madison perhaps even more than Jefferson, and only after concluding its analysis and stating its conclusion did the Court refer–once–to Jefferson’s letter, largely to borrow his famous metaphor as a clever label or summary of its conclusion. The notion, often heard, that the Court rested its decision solely or largely on that letter is a red herring.

      Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). Indeed, he understood the original Constitution–without the First Amendment–to separate religion and government. He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

      • Reason2012

        No, the only separation of church and state is that the state is forbidden from in any way restriction freedom of religious expression. The details above refute your claim. The Constitution does not say that the government must remove God from every aspect of our nation excpet where they give permission.

        As Thomas Jefferson stated in a letter he wrote, he (nor the government) would in no way restrict the freedom of religious expression because he saw a wall of separation between church and state.

        • Doug Indeap

          The First Amendment plainly has two aspects. The first, as you note, prohibits the government from prohibiting individuals from freely exercising their religion. The second, which you somehow overlook or ignore, constrains the government not to promote or otherwise take steps to establish religion.

          You are quite right, but also quite off target, in declaring that that the Constitution does not say the government must remove god(s) from every aspect of our nation except where it gives permission. I said nothing remotely suggesting anything of the sort.

          You seem to suppose that the school’s decision somehow restricts individual freedom of religious expression. As I noted in an earlier comment, it is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” speech about religion becaust the First Amendment protects the former and constrains the latter. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., coaches instructing students), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please.

          • Reason2012

            No, the First Amendment does not say the government is to not “promote or otherwise take steps” to establish religion – it says it’s not to pass laws to establish religion.

            The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion

            No law was made forcing the coach to pray or forcing others to pray – so every team across the country is allowed to pray if they personally decide and no one can force them NOT to. Every team across the country is allowed to NOT pray if they personally decide to, and no one can force them to. That is liberty. That is the constitution. That is the United States of America.

            By forcing them to not pray, making it against the rules or against the law, you are forcing the censorship of freedom of religious expression, violating the very First Amendment.

            It’s not “freedom” if the government, school or other public venues do not allow you to have religious expression except where they give permission. There IS no “First Amendment” constraint on government except to pass laws that establish a religion. No laws are ever being passed – it’s those who hate God that try by force of laws/rules to prohibit religious expression except where they give permission.

          • Doug Indeap

            1. Your interpretation of the First Amendment is simply way too narrow. You make much of the First Amendment’s references to “Congress” and “law.” By your literal reading, are we to suppose the President could, by proclamation, establish a national religion or prohibit the free exercise of one or more religions? Nonsense. First, Congress itself cannot make any law whatsoever without the approval of the President, except in the instance of overriding a President’s veto, so to read the language as simplistically and literally as you suggest would actually do violence to the intent of the Amendment. As laws in the ordinary course are “made” by actions by both Congress and the Executive, the establishment clause is reasonably understood to constrain both branches of government. By the literal reading you suggest, it would, I suppose, only stop Congress from overriding a veto to make a law establishing a religion–a manifestly silly result. If the clause were interpreted to leave the Executive free, by proclamation or some such, to establish a religion, what really would be the point of the clause? No, such an interpretation would enable the Executive to eviscerate the purpose of the clause.

            In any event, watch what you wish for. Any such crabbed reading of the First Amendment would mess with the free exercise clause as well and enable the Executive to take steps restricting the free exercise of religion.

            While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from enacting a law establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

            Suffice it to say that no court in the history of our nation has read the First Amendment to mean as little as you now suggest.

            2. You speak of the government “forcing them not to pray” and the like. That is not at all what this case is about. The government has not forced anyone either to pray or not to pray. Rather, the question is whether the government itself has displayed religious messages contrary to the First Amendment.

            As I noted earlier, it is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” speech about religion because the First Amendment protects the former and constrains the latter.
            As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school coaches instructing students or administrators deciding to erect and maintain monuments), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. Students also are free to exercise and express their religious views–in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities.

            Here, nothing has been done to stop any individual praying if they like. The only question concerns the school itself displaying religious messages.

          • Reason2012

            “1. Your interpretation of the First Amendment is simply way too narrow.”

            There’s nothing to “interpret” about “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

            It means Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Cannot get any clearer than that. To pretend to “interpret” this as “Congress shall make laws so that no coach can pray with his team” is disingenuous.

            Words have meaning for a reason. No law was made here forcing the coach to pray.

            There’s also nothing to “interpret” about “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

            It means “make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

            So there can be no law/rule/call it what you will PROHIBITING a coach from leading his team in prayer. Just like there can be no law/rule/call it what you will FORCING him to.

            There is no such law forcing him to, so there is no violation.

            But those who hate Christianity pretend there’s a law/rule PROHIBITING his free exercise thereof, and there cannot be.

            “In any event, watch what you wish for. Any such crabbed reading of the First Amendment would mess with the free exercise clause as well and enable the Executive to take steps restricting the free exercise of religion.”

            No, it’s about the will of the people -being a Christian nation, it’s Christian prayers that would happen – none of these teams will stand by and let their personal team be taken over by other beliefs. AGain, it’s about liberty of the teams on a team by team basis.

            “Suffice it to say that no court in the history of our nation has read the First Amendment to mean as little as you now suggest.”

            No, it’s only those who hate God and Christianity who pretend the First Amendment means that congress shall make laws prohibiting the free exercise of religious expression except in a church.

            “2. You speak of the government “forcing them not to pray” and the like. That is not at all what this case is about.”

            Sure is what it’s about. Can he pray with his team? “No, it’s against the law”. You cannot even be honest about how this is about forcing it so that no coach can choose to pray.

            “As I noted earlier, it is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” speech”

            The distincation is already quite clear: congress’ restriction is they cannot pass laws to establish it. Is there a lw forcing the coach or the team to pray? No. Can there be a law forcing him to not pray. Just as importantly: NO.

            “Here, nothing has been done to stop any individual praying if they like.”

            Individual? It doesn’t say “Congress shall pass laws prohibiting more than one person from praying but one person praying is ok”.

            “The only question concerns the school itself displaying religious messages.”

            No, the only question concerns laws being passed making it so no teams can pray except where given permission.

          • Doug Indeap

            There is much of the law that your research and thinking has so far not revealed to you. Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://divinity.wfu.edu/uploads/2011/09/divinity-law-statement.pdf

            Your atheist-Christian cross talk is misplaced. Separation of church and state is not an atheist concept. It is instructive to recall that the Constitution’s separation of church and state reflected, at the federal level, a “disestablishment” political movement then sweeping the country. That political movement succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by the 1830s. (Side note: A political reaction to that movement gave us the term “antidisestablishmentarianism,” which amused some of us as kids.) It is worth noting, as well, that this disestablishment movement was linked to another movement, the Great Awakening. The people of the time saw separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion.

            This sentiment was recorded by a famous observer of the American experiment: “On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. . . . I questioned the members of all the different sects. . . . I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America, I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).

            The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the Constitution serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

          • Reason2012

            The Constitution makes the part we’re talking about quite clear. Those who hate God and Christianity and their version of twisting the First Amendment to say something it clearly says the opposite of is of no interest to those who instead follow the Constitution. So saying “you’re wrong b/c I said so” when the Constitution quite clearly says exactly what it says is pointless.

            There is no “separation of Church and State = censor Chrsitanity by the government”. The phrase came from Thomas Jefferson making it clear government would NOT prohibit free exercise of religious experssion, which includes ALL instances, including a coach praying with his team. The phrase does not mean what those who hate Christianity and America say it is: that government must censor all attempts to pray unless it’s in private or in a church.

            “The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others.”

            False. The Constitution embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will pass laws to establish those views and without fearing that the government will pass laws to establish the religious views of others.

            No such law has been passed forcing coaches to pray with their teams. They are free to do so on a team by team basis. They are free NOT to do so on a case by case basis. Likewise no law can be passed PROHIBITING coaches from praying with their team, and yet here you are claiming it’s “against the law” for a coach to pray with his team on a case by case basis – that’s a flat out blatant violation of our First Amendment rights many Christians died for.

            “By keeping government and religion separate, the Constitution serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion.”

            As soon as you say it’s illegal for a coach to pray with his team on a team by team basis, you are NOT keeping government and religion separate – that is goverment mandating when people can express their religious beliefs.

            Efforts to undercut our First Amendment rights by somehow claiming the government says it’s illegal to pray with your team is what should be resisted by every patriot. And the resistance to that anti-Christian, anti-Constitution bigotry is growing by more patriots by the day.

          • Doug Indeap

            The arrogance of supposing that you can determine the meaning of the Constitution merely by reading a single phrase out of context and further supposing that you are not even “interpreting” it when you infuse it with the meaning you have in mind is exceeded only by the ignorance needed to believe that any such interpretation can comfortably be supposed to reflect the intent of the founders. There plainly is more to interpreting the Constitution than you know. I’ll just repeat that no court–not once–in the entire history of our nation has ever read the First Amendment to mean as little as your simplistic semantic sophistry leads you to assert.

          • Reason2012

            Hello. The First Amendment means what it says.

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

            Which part of “shall make no LAW” do you not understand?

            No law has been made forcing a coach to pray with his team.

            Which part of that do you not understand?

            However, you insist it’s ILLEGAL for a coach to pray with his team if he wishes, but there can be no LAW PROHIBITING the FREE exercise of religious expression.

            The only semantic sophistry here is your attempt to pretend a coach choosing to pray with his team is equivalent to congress making laws forcing him to do so.

            I’m all for teams being free to choose NOT to pray, AND being free to choose to pray on a case by case basis. That’s true freedom – a freedom you seem to loathe.

            You’re the one insisting laws be passed to prohibit teams from praying except where you give permission. Unfortunately for you, that’s why we have a Constitution to protect the rights of patriots that can choose EITHER way.

          • Woody Chuck

            Re: Reason2012

            As I previously wrote – “It’s funny how there’s always some yahoo posting in the comment section who thinks they know more about Constitutional law than the attorneys in question.”

            Reason2012 suffers from CPC – christian persecution complex. Unfortunately, your attempts are futile in his case.

    • Woody Chuck

      It’s funny how there’s always some yahoo posting in the comment section who thinks they know more about Constitutional law than the attorneys in question.

      “(1) There is no such thing as “separation of church and state” in the Constitution.”

      Anyone who knows that “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear
      in the Constitution should also know that “freedom of religion” doesn’t in appear in it, either. So, by the logic exhibited here, if there’s no “Constitutional principle of church-state separation,” then neither is there any “Constitutional principle of freedom of religion.”

      “But in a Christian nation…”

      The USA is not, and never has been a “Christian nation.”

      “take back our right to honor and worship God”

      You have every right to “honor and worship” your imaginary sky-fairy. Xians
      have total freedom of belief, expression of their belief, ability to congregate, worship, raise money, form political groups, make billions in religion-related enterprise and media.

      • Reason2012

        Hello. “Congress shall make no laws prohibiting the freedom of religious expression” is right there in black and white. That’s a freedom of religion as it’s against the Constitution to prohibit it.

        The vast majority are Christian. The vast majority who founded it were Christian. That makes us a Christian nation.

        You also have every right to worship the idea that nothing can create something, that your great……great grandparents were frogs of old, that bananas and human beings have the same great…….great grandparents, as freedom of religion also allows you that freedom to believe in such things if you wish.

        • Woody Chuck

          “That’s a freedom of religion as it’s against the Constitution to prohibit it.”

          “It’s funny how there’s always some yahoo posting in the comment section who thinks they know more about Constitutional law than the attorneys in question.”

          “That makes us a Christian nation.”

          What “makes” the USA a nation is the Declaration Of Independence. There’s NOT ONE mention of religion, must less xtianity.

          “You also have every right to worship the idea that nothing can create something…”

          Thank you, but I don’t.

          “nothing can create something”

          Other than your imagination, who created your sky-fairy?

          “your great……great grandparents were frogs of old”

          And yours were from dust and a man’s rib – LOL!

          • Reason2012

            Hello. Declaration of Independence makes it quite clear. It reads:

            “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

            America has always recognized the existence of a higher authority than the state. This accountability is expressed in all three branches of the U.S. government:

            President’s oath of office: “So help me God”;

            Congressmen and Senators’ oath: “So help me God”;

            Witnesses’ oath in court: “To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”

            The U.S. Supreme Court, in Abington Township v. Schempp (1963), decided that:

            “The state may not establish a “religion of secularism” in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus “preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.” . . . Refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.”

            The U.S. District Court, in Crockett v. Sorenson (W.D. VA. 1983), wrote:

            “The First Amendment was never intended to insulate our public institutions from any mention of God, the Bible or religion. When such insulation occurs, another religion, such as secular humanism, is effectively established.”

            You may hate this truth, but it doesn’t change it. You’re not a frog, or reptile, or an ape – you’re a human being that God made in His image. Do not fall for the deception. Take care.

          • Woody Chuck

            Quit whining…“All members of the administrative leadership team and coaching staff have received follow-up correspondence which instructs them not to organize, encourage, or participate in student prayer at any event sponsored by the district” whether you agree or not.

            “Crockett v. Sorenson (W.D. VA. 1983)” – LOL! – a case in which the plaintiffs prevailed in their claim against the public school teaching the “current” Bible class, it being unconstitutional.

            You may hate this truth, but it doesn’t change it. You’re of the species homo saipens, an order of primates in the animal kingdom. You were only made in your parents’ image, not that of some imaginary being.

          • Reason2012

            Yes, their Constitutional rights were violated whether I like it or not. But America is waking up to those who hate God and hate the Constitution.

          • Woody Chuck

            Whine, whine, Christian Persecution, whine, Martyrbates in a fury!

            The CPC – Christian Persecution Complex is a form of delusion where
            Christians believe that they are the victims of persecution – quite
            often while the sufferer is involved in bigoted behavior towards
            others themselves.

            Martyrbation: the act of declaring oneself a victim to win an argument when confronted with facts or ridicule often accompanied by CPC-Christian Persecution Complex.

            CPC is very common in America. It is driven by the need to dominate the political and social landscape. Born of a fundamentalist christian worldview, it strives to claim discrimination against christian’s in all form and manner.

            Regardless of the “moderation” of any one particular denomination, the idea of christian persecution is drilled into the heads of the faithful from day one. Fundamentalist mentality leaches
            into the god groundwater, slowly contaminating the “moderate”
            viewpoint, and sucking them into all the drama surrounding today’s
            persecution rhetoric, like the “War on Christmas”, “Prayer In
            Schools” and “Christian Nation”. You’d think that we were
            once again feeding christian’s to lions. The fact is that America
            does not persecute christian’s. To the contrary. The christian’s
            are those who persecute anyone that doesn’t agree with them, and
            their doctrine of subservience to a mythological entity.

            When the victimizers can’t victimize anymore, they call themselves
            victims.

          • Reason2012

            No, just pointing out facts – helping others wake up to what’s really going on. And they are waking up to it. 🙂

          • Woody Chuck

            Says the guy who ignores the facts of evolution.

          • Reason2012

            Nice try changing the subject. I rest my case.

          • Woody Chuck

            LOL! You already lost your case.

          • Reason2012

            I did?

          • Woody Chuck

            Hello. The Constitution, the document that actually creates the US government and is the supreme law of the land, makes it quite clear. It reads: “We the People of the United States (NOT “the Creator”), in Order to form a more perfect Union, (We the People of the United States, NOT “the Creator”) establish Justice, (We the People of the United States, NOT “the Creator”) insure domestic Tranquility, (We the People of the United States, NOT “the Creator”) provide for the common defence, (We the People of the United States, NOT “the Creator”) promote the general Welfare, and (We the People of the United States, NOT “the Creator”) secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, (We the People of the United States, NOT “the Creator”) do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

            “America has always recognized the existence of a higher authority than the state.” – yet appears nowhere in the Constitution.

            “So help me God” -appears nowhere in the Constitution as any required oath.

            IN FACT – United States Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3:

            The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

          • Reason2012

            Hello. But you are ignoring:
            Declaration of Independence reads:

            “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

            America has always recognized the existence of a higher authority than the state. This accountability is expressed in all three branches of the U.S. government:

            President’s oath of office: “So help me God”;

            Congressmen and Senators’ oath: “So help me God”;

            Witnesses’ oath in court: “To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”

            The U.S. Supreme Court, in Abington Township v. Schempp (1963), decided that:

            “The state may not establish a “religion of secularism” in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus “preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.” . . . Refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.”

            The U.S. District Court, in Crockett v. Sorenson (W.D. VA. 1983), wrote:

            “The First Amendment was never intended to insulate our public institutions from any mention of God, the Bible or religion. When such insulation occurs, another religion, such as secular humanism, is effectively established.”

          • Woody Chuck

            I didn’t ignore anything, I replied to your foolishness.

            You ignore:

            “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature (NOT ANY GOD) and of Nature’s God (NOT THE CHRISTIAN GOD) entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

            And:

            “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, DERIVING THEIR JUST POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED” – NOT THE CHRISTIAN GOD.

            They obviously and intentionally OMITTED THE CHRISTIAN GOD.

            Unless you want to perpetuate the stupidity of your arguments, stop posting them over and over.

          • Woody Chuck

            You are ignoring that it CLEARLY AND OBVIOUSLY STATES “THEIR CREATOR” not your imaginary xian mass-murdering god.

          • Reason2012

            And yet many other documents point out it was Jesus they had faith in, hence who they are referring to.

          • Woody Chuck

            HA-HA-HA! There are NO “founding documents” that include Jeebus.

          • Reason2012

            I said other documents point out it was Jesus they had faith in.

            “I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”
            –The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.

            “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see;
            Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University on March 9, 1790.

          • Woody Chuck

            Yet in the CONSTITUTION they intentionally omitted any reference to Jesus and Christianity – that’s the only relevance to this entire subject.

          • Reason2012

            No, the mention God and made it clear they’re talking about Christ.

          • Woody Chuck

            Really? Show where in the Constitution “God” is mentioned.

          • Reason2012

            Scroll up – already showed you.

          • Woody Chuck

            “God” doesn’t not appear anywhere in the US Constitution.

            Your “faith” is so weak that you must lie to support it.

  • Doug Indeap

    It is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers and coaches instructing students), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. (Students also are free to exercise and express their religious views–in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities.) If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

  • Bolvon72

    It is always encouraging to see the right thing being done, especially in deeply red states.

  • http://www.zaxtor.net ZaXtOr

    Is funny when many Christians especially the right wing ones complain about Atheists and or secularism while these Christians don’t even follow their religions.

    Example GOP are
    Pro-war.
    Pro capitalism, usury and bribery which are considered sinful.
    They oppose welfare and food stamps. Reducing tax for the less rich.
    They only care for the rich which is greedy… Rich should be taxed more (not overtaxed). And less rich a tax-break.

    Wasn’t Jesus someone who gave everything away for free (socialist type)?
    Also many GOP bully, defame and call names to the lefties.

    Isn’t bullying and defaming someone sinful?

    Aren’t they suppose to love their enemies?
    Lefties oppose sinful things such as capitalism etc.

    OO
    PS the Pledge was made by a Christian SOCIALIST!!!!

  • Woody Chuck

    It’s simply amazing how xians who post here don’t understand that US operates under the Constitution, not xian mob rule.

    Considering all the prayers about suffering and misery in the world that your god ignores (actually imposes), if you expect for your god to listen to your prayers at a high school football game, then your faith, by any imaginable definition, is obscene. Your failure to see that is willful intellectual dishonesty.

    Your imaginary god is either impotent or evil.