An organization of atheists and agnostics has taken issue with a prayer circle held after a high school basketball game in northeastern Kentucky recently.
Players, cheerleaders and coaches from cross-county rivals West Carter High School and East Carter High School gathered on the court and joined hands in prayer after their game on Jan. 26, according to a post on West Carter School’s Facebook page.
A photo of the prayer time was posted with a caption that said, in part, “What a way to end the game! #cometpride #wearecartercounty.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a news release Friday, asking that school employees stop praying with students and saying the school shouldn’t be using its official page “to endorse religion.”
The organization sent a letter to Carter County Superintendent Ronnie Dotson on Feb. 6, saying that “federal courts have held that even a public school coach’s silent participation in student prayer circles is unconstitutional.”
“These coaches’ conduct was unconstitutional because they endorsed and promoted religion while acting in their official capacities as school district employees,” the letter states.
It further argues that the posting on the West Carter Facebook page constitutes an endorsement of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause.
“We ask that Carter County Schools commence an investigation into the complaint alleged and take immediate action to stop any and all school-sponsored prayers occurring within any district athletic programs,” the letter states.
It also asks that the district remove “any posts on the district’s social media pages promoting religion” and make sure the staff members responsible for the post are “counseled that such conduct is not to be repeated in the future.”
The letter states that “a concerned local resident” reported the prayer to the organization.
As of Tuesday night, the photo was still visible on the West Carter High School Facebook page.
The prayer circle was held just days after a school shooting that left two students dead at Marshall County High School and about a week after the 25th anniversary of a school shooting that left a teacher and custodian dead at East Carter High School.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s post about the prayer had been shared more than 760 times. The foundation says it is “the largest freethought association (atheists and agnostics) in North America.”