Coach-Led Prayer in Bloomfield Hills

May 03, 2013

In late 2012 the ACLU of Michigan learned that the football coach at a public school was leading students in Christian prayer on the field at the end of football games. Because prayer under such circumstances has an inherently coercive effect on students who are not Christian or not religious, the law is clear that it is unconstitutional.

In February 2013 the ACLU wrote a letter to the school district explaining that there was nothing wrong with having a coach who is deeply religious, but at a public school he could not lead the football team in prayer.

The school district promptly instructed the coach that the team prayer would need to stop. The district also revised its written policies on prayer to clarify, correctly, that students have the constitutional right to pray on their own, but teachers and coaches have a constitutional obligation not to include prayer as part of official school events and meetings.

(ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin; Cooperating Attorneys Gillian Talwar and Beth Applebaum.)

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