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Tennessee football coaches told not to bow their heads during student-led prayer

The football coaches at Westmoreland Middle School in Sumner County, Tenn., got into trouble for bowing their heads during a student-led prayer before a recent game.

According to local NBC affiliate WSMV, the unnamed coaches didn’t say anything aloud themselves, but bowed their heads respectfully in observance alongside the students.

Now the principal and the school district have officially ruled the coaches’ participation to be an uncomfortable endorsement of religion.

“We’ve been telling our principals to kind of be looking for those things, because that is kind of a shift in how things have been done,” district spokesman Jeremy Johnson told WSMV-TV News. “It can in no way appear like it’s endorsed by Sumner County Schools personnel.”


The district, it seems, is wary of legal problems after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the district for violating the separation of church and state, saying teachers led students in Bible studies, invited a pastor to come speak to students during lunch and at least one instructor displayed a 10-inch cross in their classroom.

When asked whether bowing one’s head was considered “endorsing,“ Johnson said it ”depends what it looks like. That‘s where you kind of get into the gray area that we’re having to deal with.”

Actually the coaches were not reprimanded. Instead, they were required to sign letters indicating they understood the school’s policy, which prohibits staff from appearing to participate in a student prayer in any way, even if it takes place after hours/


But longtime referee and local resident Tony Bentle says word of the incident “blew my mind.”

“We’re just respectful, God-fearing people up here,” he said. “Nobody in this town is offended if you pray. Nobody.”

Further violations of the policy could lead to disciplinary action for the coaches — as the school walks on eggshells to avoid further difficulties with the ACLU.

“That’s a violation of their rights. We should be able to bow our heads in reverence to God, wherever we are,” Bentle told the TV station. “It’s time we draw a line in the sand and say, you know, this is ridiculous.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nigel

    The anti-American Jesus-bashers at the ACLU don’t want to see any bowing heads at football games. They see red when Americans want to honor their Christian traditions! Fed up with those subversive devils? Google or MSN “Unamericans Fight Franklin Graham,” “Separation of Raunch and State,” and “Obama Fulfilling the Bible.” Can anyone figure out how to silence the bloodsuckers and ingrates in the ACLU and in Hollywood who love to backstab their best friends (especially evangelicals)?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Allan

    Ah, the silliness of the non-believer. When I was in High School in the 1950’s, the local Athiest complained about the annual Chrismas pageant. It was finally decided that it could be presented, but only by the Spanish Club, entirely in Spanish, thus making it a cultural, not a religious act!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Greg Carney

    Are you kidding me? Now an individual can’t even bow their heads? The Church better unify and stop hiding from the enemy in fear. We are supposed to be God’s warriors and it is time we stop being cowards behind the pulpit. Is there even just one that will stand with me?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment G Lake Dylan

    so a non act would be other than disrespectful? there is no nuetral way to respond to a prayer or other act. you either respect it or disrespect it. there is no middle ground for such a thing, and not because it is prayer, but because it is a community act.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Terri

    This is absolutely infuriating!!!I am sick to death of the ACLU!! I am sick of MY rights being violated and the rights of CHRISTIANS being violated so as “not to offend.” Nobody EVER says anything to the people who pull out their rugs at the airport or wherever they are to pray to Mecca!! I bet the schools even allow the Muslim students to pray during school!!! DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND PEOPLE. It is time to stand up for OUR RIGHTS, too!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment diana oneal

    This is rubbish, NO ONE can tell you not to pray.Americans need to stand firm ,if you are a christian do not be ashamed of it .You do not answer to man ,you answer to God . Who funds these schools anyway? It needs to stop now…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Smitty

    As a graduate from the school of hard knocks I have learned there is a message in crisis,and this is a crisis.By being silent we have it made so.But I believe crisis is a way of the universes way of forcing change,to force ALL people to shake off negitive habits and replace them with something new and better,to wake us up so WAKEUP!!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pam

    I taught for 35 yrs. in the Texas schools.
    I had an awesome administration that were God fearing people. I guarantee during a student led prayer their heads were bowed, and they weren’t worried about what someone thought. The USA is based on “In God We Trust.” Next time there is a student led prayer my head will be bowed because I’m talking to God. How about you?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment usworker

    Every knee MUST BOW …

    Even aclu … At one time this was a good organization – needed in America – but now they are an example of an organization that has OUTLIVED IT’s PURPOSE .. and should be LIMITED IN SCOPE ..

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment DJB

    Bowing ones head is not an endorsement of a religion. When are we going to quit acquiescing to these liberal jackasses? I am sick of having my liberties stolen from me.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dorothy A. Walker

    What is the matter with the Christians? This country was founded by God fearing men and women. WE need to stand up to the ACLU and any others that want to take GOD out of everything. It is said that this is about 14 – 16% of the people who are non -believers, this is certainly a minute bit of people when there is 85% who are believers.
    Why do we let these few dictate to us what we can and cannot do during prayer time. We all need to get God back in our lives and forget the non believers.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment wandell carter

    I agree with the coaches, too much has been taken from our rights, and this should be the last straw. the ones that make such laws aand rules — and the ones that impose them on us– really need to do some praying themselves. God will hear even their prayers. So– come on, our country was founded on Christian principals and it is time we took the same principles back, put prayer back in our schools and give credit to god for our wonderful USA. Love it — or leave it. wc

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