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Michigan district tells wrestling coach to stop leading prayers

By The Associated Press

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."


ACLU threatens to sue Michigan school district over praying coach

Football coach, who is also a pastor and married to school board president, says he won't quit praying with team. 11.06.00

Louisiana school system accused of promoting public prayer
ACLU sues Tangipahoa Parish for third time in nine years, claiming officials prayed at school football games, functions and board meetings. 10.15.03

Ohio public school drops morning prayer
Lord's Prayer had been recited over loudspeaker until newspaper questioned school district about the practice. 02.03.06

N.J. coach can't kneel, bow head as team prays, 3rd Circuit says
Reversing lower court ruling, three-judge panel finds school board's policy barring staff from joining in student-led prayer is constitutional. 04.16.08

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