We know that public schools have come become a battleground of ideologies, with multiple schools getting away with teaching CRT, others firing teachers for saying that boys are boys and girls are girls, and still more trying to prevent parents from speaking out against their radical curricula and policies. Now, we have organizations crying foul when and display of the Christian faith is made within a school.
Liberty-Benton High School in Findlay, OH, has come under heavy scrutiny in recent days ever since the Freedom from Religion Foundation discovered that football head coach Scott Garlock leads his team in the Lord’s Prayer before games – oh, the horror – amongst other faith-based activities.
In a letter to school district Superintendent Mark Kowalski addressed on Sept. 1, members of the organization said:
Coach Garlock requires players to lead prayers at team meals, leads students in the Lord's Prayer before games, and leads students in a post-game prayer. Our complainant reports that Coach Garlock started these practices many years ago when he was the team's coach and that he passed them onto the next coach, who also implemented these practices until Coach Garlock became head coach again this year and resumed these practices himself.
FRF Staff Attorney Christopher Line cited the Supreme Court's has continuous promotion the separation of Church and State. Kowalski countered several weeks later by citing the school’s Policy 8880, which says that “any student may choose to engage in religious expression before, during, or after school in the same manner and to the same extent that a student is permitted to engage in secular activities or expression.”
“The district will not adopt policies, operations, or procedures that curtail these rights,” Kowalski responded.
Using a sports team to promote certain faith values can be mirky waters. But we have seen football teams from all different leagues promote countless causes and faiths, from breast cancer awareness to Black Lives Matter to land acknowledgements of indigenous tribes. So what makes Coach Garlock’s expression of personal beliefs any different?
In short, nothing.
Coach Garlock’s actions are not endangering anyone, and he is not threatening students with being cut if they do not share his beliefs. He is simply incorporating his personal beliefs into the culture of his team and carrying out his vision for the team (something all coaches do).
The only difference between Garlock’s actions and the actions of other teams is that he is promoting a belief system that is widely considered to be “offensive.” Hopefully, Liberty-Benton can avoid being silenced and Garlock can continue to be offensive.