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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Freedom from Religion Foundation objects to church service today for Bryant High football team

Posted By on Sun, Aug 25, 2013 at 7:17 AM

click to enlarge PLEASE BOW YOUR HEADS: It's football season in Bryant.
  • PLEASE BOW YOUR HEADS: It's football season in Bryant.

From the Bryant Hornet Facebook page:

Invitation from Coach Paul Calley: The Bryant Hornet Football Team Worship is this Sunday, Aug 25th at Otter Creek Assembly of God, 10:30 am kickoff. Our guest speaker will be Dr Fitz Hill, President of Arkansas Baptist College. I would like to invite anyone and everyone that would like to join us in worshiping The Lord and kicking off the football season the right way! This tradition has been a blessing to me, our staff, our players and all of our families and we would love for you to come and share in this exceptional experience with us!

If you check the Facebook page, you'll find a healthy string of comments on this set off by a reader who noted: 

Shouldn't this religious invitation be made through the Otter Creek church Facebook account instead of through the public school Facebook account? This seems completely inappropriate.

This being Arkansas, those supporting a church service for the football team outweigh those raising such questions. Note, too, that this may be a fan Facebook page rather than an official school page.

The church service has drawn attention from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, as noted here.

The Foundation has objected to the football mass and you can read its full letter by following this link. 

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent an August 22 letter to Bryant Public Schools Superintendent Randy Rutherford requesting he cancel the team religious worship service.

The school is violating the Constitution by endorsing and promoting a religious event. The school will trample on the Constitution by allowing the school- and coach-sponsored "Bryant Hornet Football Team Worship" to be held as planned.

"Bryant Public Schools has a duty to remain neutral toward religion," Elliott wrote. "By one of its employees scheduling a religious service for a school athletic team, the district has breached that duty."

I'd guess it's pretty safe to say the good people of Bryant will tell the FFRF to go to Hell. There's a bit of a gray area here if this is a fan page and the coach is merely sending an invitation. Still, would a member of the Hornet football team really feel free not to respond to the coach's invitation to join him in worship today? Wouldn't it be better — if there must be Pray for a Good Season church service — to have them wholly put in motion by people unrelated to the publicly financed institution? It is, after all, a jurisdiction comprising more than Baptist and Assembly of God believers, but also Jews, Muslims, atheists, Jains, Buddhists, non-believers and who knows what all. There are probably even some devil worshippers around if there was any truth to those old reports about ritual cattle sacrifices that used to pop up periodically in the Bryant area. (Well, OK, it might be hard to find a Jain in Bryant.)

It's a little late. But maybe somebody could put an emergency call in this morning to Steve Jones or one of the other gun nutters over in Fort Smith. They could grab their strap-ons and join the worship service with their sidearms to guard against invasion by someone as obstreperous about the 1st Amendment as they are about the 2nd.

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