FFRF victories (June/July 2022)
By Casandra Zimmerman
School removes pic of students, coach praying
FFRF was alerted by a concerned Coulee Hartline School District resident in Washington that the high school had displayed a photo of coaches praying with students at a football game on one of its walls.
FFRF wrote to Superintendent James Evans advising the district to remove the religious endorsement from its property and ensure that its coaches are not leading or participating in prayers with students.
“It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line in a letter to the school district. “The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools.”
In a response from the school district, FFRF was informed that the photos had been removed and the district spoke with the staff.
Colorado school ends Christian concerts
A Colorado school district will not include religious songs in its concerts after a Thompson Valley High School parent reported that their child had participated in an event that contained overwhelmingly Christian language.
One song, performed on March 23, was “Worthy to Be Praised,” and is very clearly a Christian worship song:
Holy holy holy.
Praise our God, Almighty.
Worthy and holy.
Praise the Lord in the highest, praise His holy name.
Let all things that haveth the breath, just praise the Lord.
I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Performing Christian worship songs at public schools is wholly inappropriate, FFRF insisted. FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote a letter to the superintendent of Thompson School District, reminding him that “Teaching students Christian worship music in a public school violates the First Amendment. It is well settled that public schools may not advance or endorse religion.”
The district responded to inform FFRF that religious music will no longer be a part of the concert.
Coach won’t say prayer at awards dinner
A concerned parent in the Victor Valley Union High School District in California contacted FFRF to report that the head coach of the Silverado High School football team opened its awards dinner with a Christian prayer. The event was held at the school to honor members of the football team, and the prayer was delivered “in Jesus’ name.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line sent a letter to Ron Williams, superintendent of Victor Valley Union High School District, reminding him that it is illegal for athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer.
“Coach Jones’ conduct at this event was unconstitutional because he endorsed and promoted his religion while acting in his official capacity as a school district employee,” Line insisted. “Certainly, he represents the school and the team when he acts in his official role as head coach of the Silverado High School football team. Therefore, he cannot lead prayer at school events, lead his team in prayer, or advocate for students to lead team prayer either.”
Assistant Superintendent Ramiro Rubalcaba responded to FFRF’s letter assuring that it was a mistake and would not happen again. “Having educated the coach concerning this issue, he has agreed that, moving forward, he will ensure that neither he nor any members of his staff will conduct prayer during any school activities or even engage in religiously related discussions at work so as to avoid any perceived endorsement of religious issues.”