Prayer Before Football Game Ruled Against The Law

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DUNMORE -- Dunmore's football team enters Friday night's playoff game with an undefeated record. But the Bucks will have to scramble as they hope to continue a popular pregame tradition.

For years, Dunmore's football players have gathered with Coach Jack Henzes before every game for a short prayer. And, obviously, it works, as the Bucks have one of the most successful football programs in our area.

But an out-of-state group is weighing in, claiming it's against the law for the coach to lead the players in prayer.

Dunmore School District administrators received a letter last week from a nonprofit organization called the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The foundation received a complaint about Dunmore football's pregame prayer ritual.

The school says the law is clear and coaches, teachers, or staff can no longer participate in public prayer with students. Still, the break in a decades-long tradition has angered some fans.

Dunmore wears its heart and its support on its sleeve. Dunmore Bucks football could be considered a religion around here. And it's rooted in tradition. A decades-old pregame tradition is about to change. Dunmore's football coach of more than 40 years, Jack Henzes, has always led the players in prayer.

But, since a civil rights organization informed the Dunmore School District that the prayer was against the law, neither Coach Henzes nor any other school staff member can participate in the prayer.

"It's just something you're accustomed to doing every day, and Coach Henzes doesn't just teach football, he teaches life lessons, and this is a life lesson I'm sure he'll teach the bucks. They will get through this, and I mean, this is really nothing but a distraction from their undefeated season," said former player Sal Marchese.

Dunmore football alumnus Sal Marchese says the current players will probably pray anyway. It's not uncommon in northeastern Pennsylvania to see players and coaches bow their heads in prayer before a game.

Dunmoreans seem to think it's a tradition not worth messing around with.

"A lot of sports teams are very superstitious, and if it gets a W, a W is a W, you know? It's the way it is. I don't see a problem," said Vinny Burney.

Dunmore native Beth Ann Zero owns a yoga studio in town. She says all religions are welcome here, and like most of the people we talked to, Zero thinks, just live and let live.

"I don't understand how people have this much time on their hands to protest issues like this when there are so many major issues out there, where whether or not a coach leads his football team in prayer ahead of the game is that important to them."



    • M Torch

      I’m sure there are more things that they pray about than just winning a game. They probably pray for their safety and to show good sportsmanship throughout the game. Who knows? They may even pray for {gasp} the other team’s safety and for {gasp} their parents and fans and {super gasp} the salvation of each and every player, coach, and spectator at the game. I doubt very seriously that the only thing they’re praying for is a win. But it would make sense for someone who was against God to spread that false narrative and make followers of Christ look simple minded. Basic bully tactic.

      • ObserveNabsorb

        Nah. High school football helps fuel anger and disdain, not compassion and love.

        Nothing like multiple child-hood head injuries to put you on the path to real success.

  • Rick Fleming

    I don’t get it. What does this out of state organization have any say in what a Pa high school football team does before a game? Is their tradition of a prayer in any way hurting someone?

    • Ron

      They are acting on behalf of a local complainant. Local people were concerned with this activity and acted upon it.

    • ObserveNabsorb

      Careful Ron. You might accidentally reveal that the world doesn’t revolve around white Christians. They might need to go to one of those fabled safe spaces they condemn so heartily.

  • Niles

    WNEP agitates with story and lets everybody destroy each otherwith comments and in the end divide us even more. Nice agenda, WNEP. How about a story on how wonderful communism is? how about another transgender bathroom story to unite us? WNEP has a clear slanted agenda and it is shameful.

  • ObserveNabsorb

    The beauty of the first amendment is that while you get to hold a piece of cloth in higher esteem than a human life, I’m entitled to think it’s a nationalistic ego trip ironically celebrated every fourth with crappy American fireworks and Chinese manufactured little flags to wave that’ll wind up in the trash anyway. I thank vets for their service not a flag.

    I don’t pay all those taxes for government sponsored events to allow them to blatantly ignore violations of our conveniently cherry picked BoR

  • ..z

    You all talk the talk but won’t walk the walk. This country is built on wickedness, murder, and theft. Take a look at what you did in the middle east for example

  • debra welikonich

    THIS is your 1st amendment right, do not feed into their nonsense, they are EVIL at it’s worst! All should open their EYES and HEARTS and get back to GOD! Our basic beliefs are built on the TRUTH!

    • ObserveNabsorb

      No. this is separation of church and state. Maybe some poor Jewish or Muslim kids on the team felt uncomfortable. I’d rather my kids not have to participate in something that same set of rules you are so brazenly using caps lock to express says they shouldn’t have to. Public school are funded by my tax dollars just as much as yours. This is exactly what free speech is meant to protect. God is too busy slaying innocent children with cancer and such to worry about a football game.

  • Ed De Facto

    The organization is called “Freedom from Religion Foundation.” I don’t see any freedom in this oppression through an ambiguous law, enforced and pushed by an out of state organization that has no personal relationship to my community.. He never forces anyone to pray and he never specifies any religion in said prayer or a specific god. If a player doesn’t want to pray they could simply choose not to. Separation of church and state is one thing but the separation of religion and spirituality is a concept that most people simply do not understand simply because they have been jaded by some form of religion in the past and they solidified those religious concepts that lack true spirituality and force dogmas and ridged meaningless ritual in their mind, blocking out any true form of positive prayer. One does not need to be religious to pray. I pray and I am an atheist agnostic of sorts. Its all in the mind and this is all about CONTROL by State through the disguise of freedom by so called separation of church and state.

    • ObserveNabsorb

      If you claim to be an atheist and also claim to pray in the same sentence….you’re probably not an atheist.

  • MAX

    Why is it ok for Muslims to be able to pray at schools but not Christians. That make no sense. This world was built on prayer. What’s the big deal if they pray before and after a game? Better prayer than riots!

    • BE NICE

      In school, I always thought that The Pledge of Allegiance was more about respecting the Flag as a symbol of the United States of America, and being thankful to be a US Citizen, than it was about religion. Although I wasn’t 100% sure what my actual beliefs were about God, I didn’t question the morning Pledge because it seemed like a positive and thoughtful tradition, and an honorable and “small” thanks to all of the “real” people dying every day for the people who live in the United States.
      It seems that many people are so focused on their religious beliefs, that they can’t get what seems to be a very strong meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance, which is that “We All Stand United”. We are supposed to care about one another!

      • ObserveNabsorb

        I’d love to see proof of this. I can certainly see it occurring at a private school. If that’s the case, you better write a disgruntled letter to your local catholic school.

    • Ron

      Individually, everyone still has the right to pray, whether they are muslim or christian. The problem here is that the coach, as a school representative, is leading the prayer. That implies endorsement of one religious perspective over another by a government organization which is unconstitutional.

      • ObserveNabsorb

        Now now, the only time that constitutional rights are threatened is if it involves making guns more difficult for bad people to attain. Don’t you god damn dare try and look at those guns funny.

    • ObserveNabsorb

      Now now Ron. You might reveal to a white Christian thay America is in no way, shape or fashion a Christian nation.

      They might even need one of those mythical “safe spaces” they seem to hate so much.

  • Ron

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof “, but it appears that this so-called nonprofit group is attempting to do just that.

    • ObserveNabsorb

      It’s a public school and thus a government building. Separation of Church and State. I pay tax dollars to pay and I’d rather my child not be forced to pray like this just to avoid ridicule and shame from teammates or coaches.

  • liberals suck

    If these scum bags…these filthy dirt bag no good un-greatful F’n’ PIGS are left go to disgrace this country by disrespecting the American Flag and National Anthem by taking a knee or raising heir fists in public….than these kids and coaches should have every right to continue their tradition of prayer in public before a game!! I don’t know what this country is coming to and why some piece of garbage special interest group all the way out in Wisconsin has any influence what so ever in Pennsylvania! This is terrible!!!

  • Donald Fox

    I am far from religious, but if prayer in schools are not allowed then why would it be ok at a school function such as a football game? I dont knock people for their beliefs, but you cant pick and choose what you want to obey as rules. I agree there is much more to worry about in this world, but it is a ruling in the courts that you cant expect to win.

  • Does it really matter?

    I’ll put it out there I am a non believe me but it does not at all bother me to see people pray. If they feel the need to do so because they believe then who am I to judge. Everyone just wants to start trouble. What does it really matter I mean really!!

    • Jerry

      It does matter! There is nothing wrong with the coach having a moment of silence and each person does what they believe in is fine. But when that coach leads them in prayer he crosses a line. Why? Because he does not go from player to player to ask what prayer to say or for what religion to acknowledge. He is acknowledging his religion only onto those players.

  • Time to Drain the Swamp

    I’m not religious but who the hell do these people think they are telling them they can’t pray? I’d keep praying just to spite them.

  • Amy

    I also agree that they should continue to say the prayer. If the coach wants to stand back, that’s fine, but I would hope that he would encourage his players to continue the prayer with or without him.

  • burtfan16

    I never understood prayer in circumstances of sports and other competitions. I would hope that God, whatever or whoever he may be, would be more focused on other things going on in this crazy world. I also love interviews where athletes who won credit God or Jesus but if they lose its their own fault or the team’s fault or the ref’s fault. I guess humans have a low opinion of themselves. God forbid (excuse the pun) we actually achieve something or win something by our own merit.

  • Just-a-Guy

    Any competent lawyer and sensible judge (one who has a pair) should be able to argue that this voluntary practice should not be censored and that a single complainant, whose name should appear in the article (coward), should not be entertained. Since when does a single moron and a political activist group supersede “We the people”? When the opinion of one is forced on the many, it’s time to replace the establishment.

  • WatchingFromAfar

    Anyone can pray silently, but faculty-led prayer at public school events has been against the law for years. On the issue of prayer before team sports, I find the notion kind of silly, so if God didn’t hear your prayer or you used the incorrect “incantation” the team loses the game??

  • Sheri

    I hope the school board realizes prayer is NOT against the law. Separation of church and state does not mean that a person employed by the state or government can not openly pray. It means that our country will not choose a particular religion as their official religion, like England has.

  • Dan Wesson (NRA FOR LIFE)

    Tell this out of state group to mind there own business. Who the hell do they think they are. Mind your own business. If Dunmore wants to pray we will pray. And I will pray where ever I want..

  • Hank Maglio

    sue that judge for billions,,,,so the school can have money,,,,,,how can the president religion,,,,block traffice, to pray,,,,and don’t get arrested……………….why do people like the president,,,and hillary,,since she wants to follow in his footsteps……do they still want freedoms taking away,,,,like this,,,,,all the people who don’t want obama care, have been paying fines every month,,,since 2008,,,,,before obama care,,,you didn’t want insurance,,,,you didn’t pay fines,,,,it waS FREEDOM….

    • Bud_Dwyers_Brain

      Jeeezus, Hank. Put down the liquid “freedom.” I offer my prayers for both your grammar and your sanity.

  • Jerry

    The whole idea of our country is practice any religion or none, you want without any pressure from anyone else. How would you all feel if they decide to knee and pray to something other then your religion. This is what is wrong with this country stop trying to push your beliefs on others. You have every right to practice what you believe but don’t have the right to make me. No one is stopping these guys kneeing for a moment of silence and each one do what they want in that time.

  • Pete

    Let them sue! No jury here would convict. Say the prayer, Dunmore players are tough, will not be intimidated by out of staters interfering in our lives.

  • True Patriot

    This country is really going down hill. Such a shame that this is the kinda stuff people are whinnying about when there’s so much more that needs addressed

    • Sheri

      The “Freedom From Religion Foundation” was started and is run by a lawyer named Mikey Weinstein, an Air Force Academy graduate. He claims to have been persecuted because of his religion while he was a cadet there. It left such a deep and lasting scar that his children applied to the academy and also attended. He claims they were persecuted as well. He travels the country (including Hawaii) searching for “religious outrage” in the military. I guess now he’s branched out.

      • JD

        Sheri: Wait a minute. This scumbag had his witty bitty feelings hurt so now he’s out to start sh*t where ever he goes? And he was allowed to make a LAW that says ya can’t PRAY at School events? We should Pray for him!

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