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International – American football coach in prayer ban

January 2018

American football coach John Small has been banned from praying with his team, following complaints from atheists.

According to a report from the Christian Institute, Mr Small had been praying with players at East Coweta High School, Georgia. However, he was forced to stop after atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter of complaint to the school.

Christopher Line, of FFRF, claimed that Mr Small should not be an ‘advocate for students to lead team prayer’, because of his position within the school. After receiving the letter, the school decided to issue formal guidance on the matter.

In a statement, East Coweta High School said school employees cannot take part in any student-initiated or student-led prayer or worship while ‘acting in their official capacity’.

Last year, another American football coach, Joe Kennedy, lost his appeal against being fired from his job, after he rejected demands to stop praying, bowing his head or kneeling. He had taken his case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges ruled against him and claimed his actions could be seen as state endorsement of religion.