Settlement reached in lawsuit over prayer at Georgia schools

August 4, 2015 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
A federal lawsuit over teacher- and coach-led prayer at a Georgia school district has been dismissed after the sides reached an out-of-court agreement.

FootballHuddleThe American Humanist Association (AHA) filed suit in December against the Hall County School District. The AHA sent letters to the district last year, complaining of “the infusion of religion into the school’s sports programs.” The organization claimed it possessed photographs that showed coaches leading students in prayer, football players joining hands in a prayer circle and banners displaying Christian scripture.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that student-led prayer at football games is a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.

From the AHA:

“This is a victory for the separation of church and state,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “When public schools remain secular, they uphold the rights of all students to learn, free from unnecessary religious intrusion.”

Under the settlement, the school superintendent will issue a memorandum detailing the standards for religious neutrality required by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act to the principals in all of its 36 schools. The district will host a training session before the start of the school year for administrators, who will educate staff and coaches on their constitutional duties. The district also agrees to pay the American Humanist Association’s legal fees of $22,500.

“We are pleased that the district is taking productive steps forward to ensure compliance with the Constitution, and we expect that it will stop the student-staff prayer activities and other problematic conduct,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association.

This issue of coach- or player-led prayer is also being debated in Oklahoma, where the athletic association’s policy prevents student-led prayer over the public address system during football games. State legislators vowed to fight the policy, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling.

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