1. Pasco

Atheist group calls on Pasco school district to end football coach-led prayer

Published Oct. 15, 2013

Saying it wants to uphold the constitutional separation of church and state, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has called upon Pasco County school district leaders to put an end to coach-led prayers at high school football games.

The Wisconsin-based "association of freethinkers" sent a letter to superintendent Kurt Browning on Oct. 8 demanding that he take "immediate action to stop any and all violations of the First Amendment." The group referred specifically to prayers and pregame meals at churches conducted by Zephyrhills High School football coach Reggie Roberts, as reported in the Tampa Bay Times.

"It is illegal for a public school athletic coach to lead a team in prayer," foundation lawayer Andrew Seidel wrote, listing a slew of legal precedent to back his statement. "Taking public school football teams to church, even for a meal, is unconstitutional," Seidel added.

Browning already has publicly instructed all coaches and other district employees to mind their official roles and act accordingly. While coaches may pray silently, they may not initiate or lead the prayer, Browning stressed. He or district lawyer Dennis Alfonso planned to let the group know what actions the district has taken to stop the practice and to monitor for any violations.