For some reason, there’s nothing that gets the goat of atheists more than football coaches praying with their students. A couple of years ago, we saw the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) take on college football coaches who have dared to live out their faith to their players. That same year, the Godless Gestapo stopped a coach in Washington state from praying with his players.
The latest target of these joyless busybodies is East Coweta High School, a school located in a small town southwest of Atlanta. The FFRF has successfully lobbied the Coweta County School System to halt Coach John Small from leading — or even taking part in — pregame prayers with his players.
The FFRF press release crows about what they see as a victory:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has put an end to a Georgia high school coach’s practice of praying with his players.
It was reported to FFRF that a Coweta High School football coach, John Small, had made it a habit to pray with his team, which was filmed at a recent game.
FFRF sent a letter to the Coweta County School System warning that it is illegal for public school athletic coaches to further personal religious beliefs by leading their teams in prayer. Coach-led prayers, FFRF points out, equate to a government advancement and endorsement of religion — a stark violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The district promptly responded notifying FFRF in an Oct. 26 letter that Barker has met with the principals of all three high schools to inform them that neither school staff nor volunteer staff may lead or participate in religious activity before, during or after high school football games.
“We appreciate the district’s swift action to address the violation and its commitment to protecting the rights of conscience for all of its students,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Clearly, “live and let live” is nowhere to be found in the vocabularies of these nosy interlopers.
Coach Small admits that he is at peace with the decision, as he told the Christian Post:
“Our board, our superintendent and our coaches, they are all on the same page. There is nobody here that is against each other. Leadership is a tough position and you are not going to make everybody happy. But at the end of the day, I don’t feel like our rights were violated at all by the stance our county took,” Small added. “Even though we don’t like the law, it is what it is and we are supposed to be obedient to that as well.”
On the surface, it looks like the atheists have won, right? Not so fast. The uproar over banning Coach Small and others on his staff from taking part in the prayers has led even more students to step up and get involved.
The players on the East Coweta High School football team have already taken ownership of the team’s prayer tradition. In the first game after the prayer guidance was issued by the school system, East Coweta football players gathered near the hometown stands to pray with the audience before the game.
“Our students have done a great job and our students took it upon themselves to organize a prayer with our students in the stands before the game. Instead of it being 100 players praying, it turned into 400 students praying. That’s their right and we are going to support them in that,” Small said. “I think what is happened with this organization [FFRF], whatever their intent was, you tell teenagers they can’t do something, surely they are going to do it. It has really turned into a positive because at the end of the day, we are trying to teach students about leadership and they should be the ones taking the charge on it anyway.”
I’m sure Coach Small would echo the words of Joseph in Genesis when he told his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” The FFRF may have thought that banning the coach from praying would put an end to the prayers, but they didn’t count on faithful students taking the initiative to turn the prayers into a bigger and better thing. That’s a student body to be proud of.