Baldwin Co. parents react after football coach accused of forcing players to pray
BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WPMI) —
A formal complaint is raising questions surrounding allegations that a Baldwin County football coach forced players to pray.
The non-profit organization Freedom from Religion Foundation claims the incident happened at a freshman football game between Elberta High School and Daphne High School on September 5.
Parents in Baldwin County are sharing their thoughts on the accusations.
Wanda Kirby is a mom to a Baldwin County High School football player.
Kirby believes students should pray if and when they want to.
"I don't think he should have forced them to pray. I think if they were willing to pray among themselves, they should," said Kirby.
The complaint was filed by attorneys with the Freedom from Religion foundation, a nonprofit based out of Wisconsin.
According to the allegations, Coach Kenny Thomason ordered all his players to kneel after a player was injured and said "I don't care if your parents in the stands don't like it. I don't care if you don't like it. We are going to pray for that boy on the field. Get on your knee now."
According to the complaint, his actions were considered school sponsored prayer and against the first amendment.
Chantel DuBose, whose son is in the Baldwin County school system, agrees.
"I'm not saying they shouldn't be able to pray in school. But at the same time, you shouldn't force them to do it if that's not what they are. There is a difference between church and state. They're supposed to be separate," DuBose said.
The Baldwin County School District has issued a statement saying in part.
"Coach Thomason was not even with his Elberta team following the Daphne player’s injury. Coach Thomason went to open the gate to let the ambulance in to transport the injured player. There is no way that he could have told the players what this press release purports he said because he was not with them but instead was getting help."
DuBose believes if it turns out that Coach Thomason did do it, school officials shouldn't be too hard on him.
"Give him his chance to voice his opinion. Reprimand him but don't fire him. He was just doing what he thought was right," said DuBose.
The Baldwin County School District also said they are reviewing the complaint but added that they go over the rules of prayer every year and make sure all schools know the law.