When complaints about freedom from religion drifted in after local graduation ceremonies in May, they seemed likely to fizzle out during a hot summer break. Unfortunately, their effects are still being felt.
Another worship tradition has been abandoned courtesy of the PC police. The Houston County Board of Education decided coach-led devotionals (read: prayer meetings) will no longer be part of the athletic landscape at its schools.
Our intention is to follow the law, which is to be neutral as far as religion is concerned, Superintendent Robin Hines noted in an e-mail response to a question posed Thursday.
Secular devotionals are fine, apparently. Coaches are allowed to encourage good citizenship and good hygiene. But there will be no mention of God, Allah or the Dalai Lama. No mention of Daniel in the lions den. No mention of David vs. Goliath.
To be fair, the Houston County school board has a responsibility to its residents to be good stewards of public funds. Threats of lawsuits need to be taken seriously when facts indicate the government will be on the hook for a large judgement.
But was Wes Bryant, the North Carolina resident who lodged the original graduation complaint, really damaged by the incident? Was the 14-year military man who had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan -- as he told The Telegraph in June -- traumatized by sitting for an hour and hearing scattered references to God and prayer?
Why not let a jury decide? As my father would have said, Thats a lawsuit we want.
But this isnt a legal issue. Its a personnel issue. Any coach that requires attendance at religious devotionals should be reprimanded. If the behavior continues, he should be dismissed.
Heaven knows (oops, sorry) parents have too much paperwork as it is, but couldnt we simply sign a statement giving permission for our kids to attend these devotionals?
This notion that many must suffer because a few are offended (or worse, we fear a few will be offended) has got to stop. History shows us plenty of examples of tyranny by majority. Many of the worst occurred in this neck of the woods. However, common sense dictates weve now gone too far the other way.
Im not entirely unsympathetic to those who say coach-driven religious devotionals have no place in public schools. Im a Catholic from Illinois. Being asked what church I belonged to within a week of moving to Warner Robins struck me as odd -- if not downright rude. But the thought that I would seek some way to stunt an expression of the local culture never crossed my mind.
In time, I learned thats how the South rolls. I learned to roll with it. My own beliefs were strengthened in the process.
We demand a lot of our athletic coaches in this area. Beyond preparation and instruction of their respective sports, coaches take on mentor roles for the boys and girls in their charge. Its reasonable that some might choose to relate personal faith experiences. And its disappointing the Houston County school board moved to limit their ability to do so.
Contact Chris Deighan at firstname.lastname@example.org.