Danville Coaches Prohibited From Prayer with Players

DANVILLE -- Another school district in our area has ordered the head football coach to stop praying with his players.

Members of the Danville Area High School football team have a tradition of praying before each game. A national group fighting for the separation of church and state found out about that, and like it did at another school in our area this season, helped put an end to it.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Danville Area's superintendent this week after someone posted a video on social media of a coach appearing to pray with the football team.

This is the same group that stopped Dunmore High School's coach from praying with his team this fall.

"Prayer can occur in a public school if it is student-driven and that our coaches are not to participate in any way," said Danville Superintendent Cheryl Latorre.

Earlier in the football season, Latorre was contacted by a parent who saw a post on social media where the team was singing a hymn. The parent was concerned that a coach was praying with them.

"At one point, one coach did kneel down and that is what caused it. It was a social media piece, a Facebook piece, that was sent out to this Freedom From Religion Foundation," Latorre explained.

Latorre was contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that works to ensure the separation of church and state. The group asked the school district to provide it with assurances that coaches are not leading students in prayer.

"We've instituted the case law. We've made sure this isn't happening," said Latorre.

The Danville Area School District updated its coaches handbook to include this information so the coaches of all of the sports teams are aware.

Jim Packer coached his son's hockey team but not for a public school.

"They should be able to do what they want to do, whether they're a coach or the athlete themselves," said Packer. "The kids were allowed to do pretty much what they wanted. And we always got together, maybe not so much in a religious way, but we always got together and prayed for the best."

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33 comments

  • JessicaInWilliamsport

    The comments here are precisely why individuals need to contact national groups in order to address these unconstitutional issues. As some have already said, student led prayer is fine(supreme court says so), teacher/coach led is not fine. The reason being that authority figures can make it seem mandatory or at least make it feel that way. They can also inspire peer pressure against anyone who is different. If you want prayer in schools, move to a country where religion and state aren’t separate — like Saudi Arabia.

  • Stephen Van Eck

    It’s simple. The coach is an employee the school, the school is a government school, the government may not promote religion. Note that the students are allowed self-initiated prayer if they choose. If that’s not good enough for you, then you’re a theocrat.

    • Brett Greig

      Gosh WRITER GIRL, in which god do you believe? From what you posted, I think it would be a safe bet to guess SATAN. Do you think maybe you have been worshiping Satan, and not an all-loving god you may have thought you were worshiping? Maybe you should think more about why you believe what you believe. “Satan” is a tricky fella, eh. Who else would be so devilishly devious as to create a world full of different religions that constant fight among each other and keep the world in perpetual conflict. Or maybe you are just a big fan of bacon (pigs in hell = bacon).

    • JessicaInWilliamsport

      Nope, same rule applies to all religion. If you open it up to one, then open it to all. Satanic prayers will be allowed as well as Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan — and any of the thousands of other religions out there. You see, that’s the thing, the lack of critical thinking on matters such as this. It’s as simple as plugging in a religion you disagree with. If it was a Muslim coach leading everyone in a prayer before a game, you can bet there would be a hue and cry raised up wanting that coach to be fired.

  • Valfreyja

    Having authority figures leading prayers in public schools is universally a bad thing. If you disagree, I volunteer as a member of the Asatru religion to go to Danville and lead a prayer circle for Odinn and Freyja. We will have a blot and do some galdr chanting to the spirits of the field before kick off.

    • Foobar

      Individual right to pray is not being infringed. The school (which includes employees thereof) may not lead or direct students in religious activities (eg prayer) while engaged in their official duties. The coach can pray privately all he wants. So can the students. If your “god” can only hear prayer if its said out loud as a group, thats not very omnipotent now, is it?

    • Marvin

      Unfortunately Jay, you may find out too late that it is not a fairy tale, and if you studied history in its correct context, you would discover that the separation of church and state was to keep the state out of the church, not vice versa. I will pray for you Jay.

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Marvin: Yes, state was definitely to keep out of religion. Religious groups being permitted to impose on government is debatable, but in more recent years the courts and others have realized that separation must be maintained both ways.

    • Writer Girl

      No one is asking you to believe, stupid. These kids apparently believe, so why deny them? Biased? Trouble with authority? Why doesn’t your group denounce Muslims praying at work? I don’t believe their religion, but you don’t see me causing a fuss. Your kind are just pathetic losers who can’t stand to see others have hope and faith in the world.

      • JessicaInWilliamsport

        ummm because it’s at work and it’s not leading other workers in prayer who may be of other faiths….because “at work” involves adults….

      • Brett Greig

        Gosh, WRITER GIRL. The kids can pray all they want on their own. The thing is that the teacher, a representative of the government, can not endorse any particular religion. If all government employees endorsed a particular religion, then the United States would become a theocracy like Iran and preach hate and discrimination against all other religions and belief systems — because historically, that is what religion, sooner or later, tends to do. Those groups you mentioned, that support the Constitution of the United States of America, do denounce Islamic transgressions against the separation of government and religion — but you may have noticed, there are not as many Muslims as there are Christians, so there will numerically be less denouncements of Islamic transgressions — it’s a math thing. The reason there is a separation of government and religion clause in the first amendment, is because in the early days of the United States of America (even before it was the United States), religious groups used laws to discriminate against other religious groups in the states — which resulted in bloodshed between different Christian sects. The first amendment was added in part to keep various sects within Christianity from fighting against one another with the force of government and to stop majority Christian beliefs discriminating against minority Christian groups in different enclaves around the country. The separation of government and religion is there to benefit religion. Religions, if they care about being able to practice their particular form of religion, should be the largest promoter of the separation of government and religion, so that they can practice without government intervention (religion had been a larger proponent throughout history). Maybe WRITER GIRL should think about transforming into READER GIRL.

  • AAORD11

    Progressives at it again. I love how this foundation with zero ties to this area feels that they can tell a small community like Danville what they should do. It is absurd. God being taken away from stuff is a huge part of society becoming what it has. Let the coaches and players pray.

  • Les

    I bet the coaches can use ‘transgender’ bathrooms though. I hope Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will help reverse the perverse course this country is on thanks to the ‘progressives’.

  • Ghjjvf

    This is so sad to me. If someone doesn’t want to participate in prayer that’s fine but to ban it? Having a belief that there’s a higher being to send out positive vibes to for safety while playing your sport shouldn’t be looked down upon. It’s not even about religion it’s about a relationship with a higher being. I’m happy my god Is in my life and my families to watch over them throughout their daily activities.. I guess to each their own but to ban it is so saddening.

    • Jay

      It’s not being looked down upon lol. You are really playing the sympathy card huh? You just can’t have the coaches (public employees part of a public school) taking part in the prayer. The kids are still allowed to pray on their own to the man in the sky.

    • Valfreyja

      Having an authority figure lead it tacitly implies one must participate. Kids are not exactly known for strong senses of individuality, after all. They do all kinds of ridiculous things under the weight of peer pressure. If the kids want to pray, that’s on them. There’s no legal system on Earth that can realistically stop that. The only reason ANYONE would be upset by this would be because this means now that kids can’t be peer pressured into joining in YOUR specific religious practice.