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Indiana Football Coach Investigated for Praying with Team


The Indiana Courier & Press is reporting that the atheist group the Freedom From Religion Foundation is demanding that a high school football coach stop praying with his team after games.

Coach Andy Hape of Reitz High School in Evansville, Indiana was photographed saying a prayer with his team after a game on October 20. The activity broke constitutional religious laws, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which called the prayer a "serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment" and wants the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. to investigate Hape.

An EVSC spokesman told the Courier & Press that the school district supports those who stand with students during student-led prayer.

On Oct. 20 in the Courier & Press posted a photo of Hape with “his head tilted down with his eyes closed. The photo also shows some team members with their hands on his shoulder.” The caption states, "Reitz Head Coach Andy Hape prays with his team after their 49-46 win over the Mater Dei Wildcats.”

An unidentified local resident reported the photo to the FFRF. The person also told the group Hape and several of his assistant coaches promote religion to students.

"It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers, or to otherwise promote religion to students," the group's attorney, Ryan Jayne, sates in a letter sent last week to the  Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. "When public school employees acting in their official capacities organize and advocate for a team prayer, they effectively endorse religion on the district's behalf.” He asked for an investigation and to ensure that Reitz coaches not pray with students during the EVSC athletic programs or for coaches to use their position to promote religion.

EVSC spokesman Jason Woebkenberg confirmed the district received the letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and that EVSC attorneys are reviewing the letter. "Please know student-led prayer is acceptable at any of our schools and we stand by those who stand with our students during student-led prayer," he said in an email Tuesday morning.

(Homepage Photo Max Pixel)


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