School prayer controversies that involve separation of church and state within public schools can stretch beyond the classroom. A Michigan school faced a challenge of including prayers during sports activities.
In 2013, the Lahser High School football team in Bloomfield Hills discontinued prayers after the game following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, The Inquisitr reported
. The tradition had started 11 years earlier when a player asked teammates to pray with him for his ill brother after games. The exercise eventually became known as “Tebowing,” which referred to Christian pro football player Tim Tebow who would pray on one knee.
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Although school officials maintained players were not told to participate in the prayer, the team announced it would stop the prayer on school property after the lawsuit.
After a family had approached the Michigan chapter of the ACLU with concerns about the praying, the chapter sent a letter to the school, saying the prayers interfered with players’ rights to freedom from religion. Student-led prayers might alienate players who didn’t share the same beliefs, the ACLU maintained.
The Supreme Court had ruled on similar issues in the past, pointing out that organized prayers violate the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. School Superintendent Robert Glass said the coach did not lead the prayers but was present during the exercise, Mount Airy News reported
“It was something that somebody wanted to do every year,” Lahser football coach Dan Loria told The Oakland Press
. “I got caught up because of how it originated and I lost sight of it.”
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Loria admitted that there were players who told him the praying made them feel uncomfortable, but allowed the practice to continue and took the blame for it.
“By me being present, I was encouraging it,” Loria said, according to The Oakland Press. “This happened because of me and I had to wake up.”
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