DUNMORE, Pa. — A high school football coach in Pennsylvania is now no longer leading prayers with his team following the receipt of a complaint from a prominent professing atheist organization.
According to reports, Dunmore High School Head Coach Jack Henzes has led his team in prayer before each game for years.
“We pray to the good Lord hoping none of our players, or the other players, are hurt because we know how hard they work,” Henzes told local television station WBRE.
But in June, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Dunmore School District to assert that Henzes’ longstanding practice was unconstitutional. The organization said that it had been contacted by a local resident about the matter.
“When a public school employee acting in an official capacity organizes, leads or participates in team prayer, he effectively endorses religion on the district’s behalf,” the letter read.
It asked that Henzes consequently be prohibited from leading students in prayer.
Five months later, Dunmore Superintendent John Marichak has now responded with notification that he has instructed Henzes to discontinue leading the prayers.
“We directed Coach Henzes to be sure that he should not partake in any such behavior,” Marichak wrote to FFRF on Oct. 31. “We also covered this with all of our personnel to be consistent and exhaustive in the upholding of the law.”
FFRF is now satisfied that its request has been fulfilled.
“We’re happy with what the school district has done and, hopefully, the constitutional boundaries will be respected going forward,” attorney Elizabeth Cavell told the Scranton Times-Tribune.
However, some residents state that they didn’t think that the matter was a big deal. Dunmore is a significantly Roman Catholic area.
“I don’t understand how people have this much time on their hands to protest issues like this when there are so many major issues out there—where whether or not a coach leads his football team in prayer ahead of the game is that important to them,” resident Beth Ann Zero told local television station WNEP.
“It’s just something you’re accustomed to doing every day, and Coach Henzes doesn’t just teach football, he teaches life lessons, and this is a life lesson I’m sure he’ll teach the Bucks,” also remarked alumnus Sal Marchese.
The team plans to continue to pray without Henzes’ leadership.
“We have a good close-knit team with the older guys and younger guys and we’ll definitely carry on the tradition,” running back Colin Holmes stated.
Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, is stated to have once said, “The foundation of all free government and all social order must be laid in families and in the discipline of youth. Young persons must not only be furnished with knowledge, but they must be accustomed to subordination and subjected to the authority and influence of good principles.”
“It will avail little that youths are made to understand truth and correct principles, unless they are accustomed to submit to be governed by them,” he declared. “And any system of education … which limits instruction to the arts and sciences, and rejects the aids of religion in forming the character of citizens, is essentially defective.”
Webster is known for writing the nation’s first dictionary, as well as the renowned 1824 Blue Back Speller.