TRI In The News
Coach Asks Permission to Bow Head While Players Pray
Original article available here.
A high school football coach is going to the U.S. Supreme Court to ask permission to be "respectful" and bow his head while the players on his team pray for each other and their opponents prior to each game.
"We're teaching kids values. There's nothing wrong with being spiritual," said coach Marcus Borden of East Brunswick, N.J., High School.
WND reported earlier when the case was presented to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
School officials had ordered Borden not to bow his head while his players voluntarily took part in a pre-game prayer.
Now, KDVR-TV in Denver reports plans to take the dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"If this ruling is allowed to stand, it will mean that high school teachers across the United States will have no free speech or academic freedom rights at all," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which has worked on the case.
"This undermines a time-honored tradition that has less to do with religion than it does athletic tradition. It's a sad statement on our rights as Americans that schools are no longer bastions of freedom," he said.
The appellate level decision concluded the First Amendment does not protect such expressive conduct.
The case developed in 2005 when officials at East Brunswick, N.J., High School adopted a policy prohibiting representatives of the school district from participating in student-initiated prayer, which has been a regular part of the high school football team's pre-game activities for more than 25 years.
The school determined that while it could not prevent legally students from praying if they chose, it could halt any recognition of that act by coaches because they are public employees and their participation would violate the "separation of church and state."
District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh earlier had declared the district violated Borden's rights to free speech, freedom of association and academic freedom for halting him from either silently bowing his head or "taking a knee" while the players prayed.
The district, however, argued in conjunction with Americans United for Separation of Church and State that the coach did not have a constitutional right of expression or academic freedom.
"I just asked to be able to be respectful of my team," Borden told the television station.