Atheist group objects to teachers and school staff attending off-campus prayer service

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Flagler Palm Coast High School football coach Travis Roland huddles up with his team during Football Sunday at Palm Coast United Methodist Church. [News-Journal file]

The Freedom from Religion Foundation continues trying to stamp out any trace of Christianity in anything having to do with public schools, this time targeting an off-campus, voluntary event that some Florida high schools uses to kick off the football season in an atmosphere of shared faith and goodwill.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The FFRF, which aims to rigidly enforce the separation of church and even dictate teacher-student interactions, recently wrote a letter to the Flagler County School board claiming they are violating the First Amendment by allowing school staff to attend the prayer service with students.

The “Football Sunday” event has been held since 2012 at Palm Coast United Methodist Church to start the football season in August. The event is attended by football players and marching band members from Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas high schools as well as school officials and coaches.

FFRF says Flagler County Schools is breaking the law by taking part in a religious activity with its students.

“This is one of the worst violations of the First Amendment in a school I have ever seen,” said Chris Line, staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “The superintendent, principals, coaches just taking everyone to a church service, it’s almost unheard of. This is just unreal the violation that’s occurring here.”

Flagler County Schools spokesman Jason Wheeler said the letter paints a less-than-complete picture.

“No one from Flagler Schools, from administrators to students, is required or forced to attend,” Wheeler said in an email to The News-Journal. “The schools do not organize transportation to or from the service in question. No one is pressured to attend and extra benefits are not extended to those who attend, nor is anyone criticized if they choose not to attend.”

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