It's nothing new for atheists to complain about religious values being upheld in schools and public places. This time, they have targeted an Indiana high school football coach for praying with his team after a game.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FRFF) got upset when Coach Andy Hape from Reitz High School was photographed by a local newspaper with his head bowed down in prayer with the rest of his team following an Oct. 13 football game, according Fox News. The newspaper photo was simply entitled, "Reitz Head Coach Andy Hape prays with his team."
The FRFF, which is based in Wisconsin, claimed they were alerted about the photograph by someone from Evansville. They responded by writing a letter to the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.
"It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers, or to otherwise promote religion to students," FRFF attorney Ryan Jayne said in the letter. "Coach Hape's conduct is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes religion when acting in his official capacity as a coach of the Panthers. When public school employees acting in their official capacities organize and advocate for team prayer, they effectively endorse religion on the District's behalf."
The FRFF wants Hape to be investigated for committing supposed "serious and flagrant" violations of the First Amendment. The school district does allow students to engage in religious activities; however, the staff are being regulated about it because prayer, religious readings and other devotional exercises might be "offensive to some."
Still, Supt. Dave Smith said the school is standing by the coach's side despite the attack from the FFRF. "Our coach was there supporting his players. That's what we expect and that's what we love about our coaches and all of our employees," Smith told WEVV. "They have every right to stand behind our employees, our students and our student athletes."
First Liberty Institute Jeremy Dys shared the same sentiment as he said that Hape's prayer on the football field was legal. "The kids have a First Amendment right to lay hands on their coach and pray for him," Dys said. "The government cannot stop the students' religious expression."