AUGUSTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The Lincoln Consolidated School District in Washtenaw County has ordered a high school coach to stop leading his wrestlers in prayers.
The Ypsilanti-area district issued the order on Jan. 19 after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue unless Daren Schaller stopped leading his Lincoln High School team in prayers after practices and before meets.
The whole team participated in the prayers, which the district said were voluntary.
Schaller could not be reached for comment, the Detroit Free Press said.
"After it caused such a furor, I just double-checked with our legal counsel, and they advised that our coaches should not lead our teams in prayer," Superintendent Sandra Harris said on Jan. 19.
Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan, said religious clubs or students voluntarily gathering for after-school prayer is legal. But he said when teachers or coaches lead prayer, it becomes a school endorsement of religion.
"The Constitution requires that the state remain neutral on matters of religion," Steinberg said. "What many people don't understand is the emotional toll of coach-led or school-sponsored prayer. It sends a message to non-believers and non-Christians that they are outsiders and not part of the team."