A Georgia school district is letting coaches use the football program to promote religion to the students, so the American Humanist Association very properly told the district that’s a violation of the Establishment clause. Result? Accusations that the American Humanist Association is bullying the students. Oh yeah? What about the coaches?
Acting on behalf of an unnamed Hall County citizen, the AHA accused the county of violating the First Amendment by allowing Gainesville’s Chestatee High School football coaches to organize team prayers and promote biblical messages on team documents and pre-game banners.
“At times, the head coach has led the prayers, which is an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause,” the AHA alleged in a letter to school officials Tuesday. “This involvement in prayer as a ‘participant, an organizer, and a leader’ would unquestionably ‘lead a reasonable observer to conclude that he was endorsing religion.’”
In response to the complaint, hundreds of Gainesville community members gathered in the middle of the CHS football field for an impromptu prayer rally on Wednesday and Thursday.
[Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)], a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and a former Baptist pastor, defended the school’s religious practices in a statement Wednesday, accusing the AHA of bullying students.
It’s the coaches and the district who are bullying. They’re the ones with the power in this situation.
“The liberal atheist interest groups trying to bully Chestatee High School kids say they have a reason to believe that expressions of religious freedom are ‘not an isolated event’ in Northeast Georgia,” Collins said. “They’re right. In Hall County and throughout Georgia’s 9th district, we understand and respect the Constitution and cherish our right to worship in our own way.”
Oh but that’s just what they’re not doing. Of course they have the right to worship in their own way; what they don’t have is the right to impose that on all students in their control in school hours on school property.
AHA legal director David Niose criticized Collins for “name-calling” and accused the conservative lawmaker of “grandstanding” in a statement to The Huffington Post Friday.
“Collins apparently doesn’t need to investigate facts or consider the legitimacy of complaints from religious minorities — he just dismisses them,” Niose said. “Obviously, he is pandering to the worst emotions and fears of his constituents. True leadership would step up and show genuine concern for everyone, including religious minorities.”
Since the AHA filed its complaint on Tuesday, the group has “received numerous communications” from other residents expressing concern over “the religious domination of the culture” in Hall County schools, according to Niose.
See? That’s the bullying.