According to a small newspaper in New Jersey, a federal appeals court prohibited a New Jersey high school football coach from taking a knee and participating in team prayer. I’m not kidding.
New Jersey High School football coach Marcus Borden is expected to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for a review of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia decision which is a reversal of a July 2006 lower-court ruling that permitted Borden to take a knee with his team. Borden said he’s fighting against the East Brunswick Board of Education to silently bow his head or “take a knee” with players as a sign of secular respect for student-led team prayer.
The federal appeals court said such actions violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which prevents government or its agents from promoting or endorsing religion.
The ruling said the school board did not violate Borden’s constitutional rights when it made him adhere to a policy barring district employees from participating in student-led prayer.
“The ruling underscores that school district employees, including football coaches, have to obey the establishment clause and have to respect the religious rights of students,” said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the school board in its appeal of U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh’s ruling.
“It also reinforces the right of the school district to step in and protect students and to make policies and decisions with that goal in mind.”
Just a quick thought. Do you realize that the school board is spending taxpayer money to fight this out in court. It’s amazing that our kids are failing, isn’t it?
The federal appeals court’s 70-page opinion prohibits coaches such as Borden, who have a long history of participating in team prayer, from continuing to do so, but it does not clarify what other coaches should do when their teams pray, which may cause confusion for other coaches nationwide.
I guess coaches should walk away when students pray or better yet they could just hand out condoms. The school board wouldn’t have a problem with that.
So what the ruling said was, “Without Borden’s 23 years of organizing, participating in and leading prayer with his team, this conclusion would not be so clear as it presently is,” wrote Judge Michael D. Fischer, author of the lead opinion. “We agree with Borden that bowing one’s head and taking a knee can be signs of respect. Thus, if a football coach, who had never engaged in prayer with his team, were to bow his head and take a knee while his team engaged in a moment of reflection or prayer, we would likely reach a different conclusion because the same history and context of endorsing religion would not be present.”
So if he weren’t a praying man then he could pray. That makes sense. But it gets better.
Judge Marianne Trump Barry said that Borden would “not be required to keep his head erect or turn his back or stand and walk away” when the team prays for such actions would suggest a “hostility to religion.”
SO WHAT IS HE SUPPOSED TO DO???????? He can’t bow. He can’t kneel. He shouldn’t keep his head erect, turn his back or walk away. How about the Macarena?
Borden’s attorney, Ronald J. Riccio, said he will likely ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case in an attempt to clarify what Borden and other coaches can actually do when their teams pray. “The ruling…cries out for a U.S. Supreme Court review to settle the question once and for all,” Riccio said.
“While Marcus Borden may not be able to bow his head or take a knee with his team for the time being, just about every other football coach in New Jersey can bow his head or take a knee with his team so long as he had never engaged in a prior practice of leading his team in prayer.”
Borden, who was hosting an annual spring football team ice cream party at the high school when asked for a comment from reporters, said he would not comment on the ruling until he had a chance to carefully review the federal appeals court’s opinion.
I wonder if anyone said grace before eating the ice cream.