Winless Tennessee High School Football Team Also in Trouble for Christian Coach’s Proselytizing

It’s bad enough when public high school football coaches preach to the athletes. But it’s downright stupid when they publicize it, assuming everyone will just accept the practice as normal.

At Cannon County High School in Tennessee, head coach T. J. Daniels has been pushing Christianity on the students for years — and a local newspaper included a report all about it:

In a picture posted on the Cannon County Football Boosters Facebook page, student athletes posed outside a church. Because that’s just a thing they do.

The idea of these faith-based trips came from current Lions head coach T. J. Daniels a few seasons ago.

“It is hard to explain, because we went one year and it just snowballed,” Daniels said after practice a few days ago. “Churches wanted us to come and visit, and we said, ‘This is a good thing.’ We do not make it mandatory. We are like, ‘Hey we are going to church together, and we would love for you to go.’ We go visit and they feed us. It just kind of happens.”

During the past few seasons, the Lions have attended several area churches from varied viewpoints, First Baptist, Woodbury Church of Christ and Ivy Bluff. Many of the sermons touch on life’s lessons both on and off the field.

This is a common misconception by coaches; that if they don’t make these church visits or prayers mandatory, everything is okay. That’s bullshit. When a coach says “This is a good thing,” students are obligated to participate so they remain on the coach’s good side. What’s the penalty for not going? Less playing time? Less trust from the coach? Less respect from your teammates? The coach may say he’s not doing anything illegal, but the social consequences are real and serious — and students should be in the position of pretending to follow the coach’s religion or become a pariah.

And visiting churches isn’t all they do:

In addition to attending the different churches, the Lions listen to a devotional given the day before the game by Andy Herzer, founder of the 1st Shot Organization and a former MTSU basketball coach. Similar to what the players gather from their church visits, Herzer gives faith based life lessons dealing with adversity and other topics to the players and the Lions coaching staff.

So they get a sermon during practice, too.

By the way: You’d think after all this proselytizing, they must be a great team. But apparently Jesus doesn’t appreciate their devotion either, since they finished the season a dismal 0-10.

And to add insult to injury, the Freedom From Religion Foundation just sent a letter to the District telling them to stop preaching in practice:

Coach Daniels’ conduct — taking the team to various churches and inviting someone to give devotionals before each game — is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes his religion when acting in his official capacity as a school district employee. Certainly, he represents the school and the team when he acts in his official role as head coach of the CCHS football team. Therefore, he cannot bring in a speaker for the purpose of giving a devotional and he cannot take his football players to church, either. When a public school employee acting in an official capacity organizes and advocates a team devotional and team church attendance, he effectively endorses religion on the District’s behalf.

We ask that CCSD commence an immediate investigation into the complaint alleged and take immediate action to stop any team outings to churches from occurring within any District athletic program. We also ask that Andy Herzer no longer give devotionals to the team before football games.

It’s up to the District to decide whether they want to fix the problem or get yet another loss, this time in court.

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