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Pennsylvania school tells football coaches to stop praying with players

(YouTube/Selinsgrove Seals Football)The players of Danville Ironmen and Selinsgrove Seals appear in a screen capture of a video from Selinsgrove Seals Football.

The football coaches of Danville Area High School in north-central Pennsylvania are no longer allowed to pray with the players after the school district received a complaint from a prominent atheist group.

According to a report from WNEP, Danville Superintendent Cheryl Latorre received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) after a video circulated online showing the coaches praying with the football team.

"Prayer can occur in a public school if it is student-driven and that our coaches are not to participate in any way," said Latorre.

The video, which also showed the team singing a hymn, was brought to the attention of Latorre by a parent who saw it on social media.

"At one point, one coach did kneel down and that is what caused it. It was a social media piece, a Facebook piece, that was sent out to this Freedom From Religion Foundation," she said.

The FFRF asked the school district for assurances that the coaches will not lead the students in prayer.

Latorre said that she and other school officials have instituted the case law and they made sure that coaches will no longer participate in the prayers. The Danville Area School District has updated the coaches handbook to inform the coaches of all sports team about the new rule.

A parent named Shakil Afridi complained that the Christian prayers and hymns "reinforces the otherness of students like my children who are non-Christian."

"My friends who tend to be non-Christian or progressive Christians and some social justice Catholics are disgusted by this," said Afridi, as reported by Christian News.

Some parents believe that the coaches should not be prohibited from praying because the activity is voluntary for both players and coaches.

"It doesn't matter if the prayer is voluntary or not It is inappropriate to use a government position in that manner," FFRF attorney Sam Grover stated.

FFRF was also responsible for prohibiting a coach from praying with students at another Pennsylvania school district. Dunmore High School Head Coach Jack Henzes was asked to stop praying with the school's football team before each game, but the players have vowed to uphold the tradition.

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