Pennsylvania Football Team Prays on, Despite Atheist Threats
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Football players at Dunmore High School in Pennsylvania are continuing the practice of praying before each game, despite their coach being ordered to stop praying with them.
Head Coach Jack Henzes has been praying with his players for more than 30 years, but was ordered to stop by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), a prominent atheist organization.
"We pray to the good Lord hoping none of our players, or the other players, are hurt because we know how hard they work," Henzes told WBRE-TV.
The close-knit group of players said they will carry on the tradition, despite their coaches' absence.
"I'm very religious myself and I believe that it's tradition that we need to keep it going. It's a shame that it got called off, but it is what it is," said Chris Murray, a Dunmore High School junior.
FFRF, based in Wisconsin, asserts that Henzes' longstanding practice is unconstitutional.
"When a public school employee acting in an official capacity organizes, leads or participates in team prayer, he effectively endorses religion on the district's behalf," a letter from the group read.
The letter, sent in June, asked that Henzes be prohibited from leading students in prayer.
In October, Dunmore Superintendent John Marichak responded by telling the organization that Henzes was ordered to stopped.
"We directed Coach Henzes to be sure that he should not partake in any such behavior," Marichak wrote to FFRF. "We also covered this with all of our personnel to be consistent and exhaustive in the upholding of the law."
But many Dunmore residents are taking issue with the request.
"I don't understand how people have this much time on their hands to protest issues like this when there are so many major issues out there—where whether or not a coach leads his football team in prayer ahead of the game is that important to them," resident Beth Ann Zero told WNEP-TV.
"It's just something you're accustomed to doing every day, and Coach Henzes doesn't just teach football, he teaches life lessons, and this is a life lesson I'm sure he'll teach the Bucks," alumnus Sal Marchese added.
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