CAMERON, MO (KCTV) – The Cameron, Missouri High School football team is receiving some pushback from a national group who has called out their coaches’ religious practices with the team.
It’s a full house at Savannah High School, as everyone has rolled in for a big playoff match up. However, the guest team from Cameron High School has more to focus on than just the game. The team recently was called out by a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
A statement from the group’s staff attorney, which was directed at the Cameron School District said, in part, “Coaches have reportedly been holding religious chapel services for players before and after games, where coaches pray with players and read and discuss bible verses.” It goes on to say those practices were led by Head Coach Jeff Wallace and Assistant Coach David Stucky.
The group also added in the statement that kind of behavior is illegal for public school coaches to do.
The school district responded by saying, in part, “The district will be performing an investigation into the allegations and concerns raised by the Freedom from Religion Foundation to determine whether district policy has been violated.”
Jeff Speer, a parent of two players, on the team said it’s something the kids wanted to do.
“If it were a situation where a coach or even another student said, ‘Get over here and pray,’ and that kid didn’t want to be a part of it, I understand,” he said, “but they all want to be a part of it.”
With regard to the complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Speer said, "
"It’s a very distracting thing that every single coach, football, player, fan -- we all have to deal with."
One of the other issues is having team prayers at the 50-yard line after games.
Players are able to pray on their own, but it is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer or religious worship, or join in.
“They just say, ‘Okay, everybody bow your heads,’ and they have a moment of silence and everyone does their own individual prayer,” Speer said. “Other teams join. We’ve had almost every team we play this year come out, join on their own.”
We spoke with Savannah High School fans as well, to see how they felt about it.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it personally,” said Donna Beattie. When asked why, she said, “Because I’m a Christian and believe in prayer.”
“I don’t know on that,” Debby Stallard said. “That’s just like in school. They don’t want the teachers to do that, right? But, I don’t know about that, but I think the kids should be able to.”