KEYSER - Mineral County School superintendent Troy Ravenscroft has told the Freedom From Religion Foundation that he is investigating the complaint about Frankfort High School football players and coaches praying mid-field with their Hampshire opponents on Oct. 25.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Mineral County School superintendent Troy Ravenscroft has told the Freedom From Religion Foundation that he is investigating the complaint about Frankfort High School football players and coaches praying mid-field with their Hampshire opponents on Oct. 25.
In the meantime, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has released an official reply to comments made by Del. Gary Howell, taking issue with his comment that the letter of complaint was an example of “snowflake political correctness run amok.”
The original letter to Ravenscroft from the Freedom From Religion Foundation lodged a complaint expressed by an unnamed concerned parent who took offense to a photo that appeared on social media showing the Frankfort players and coaches joining with the Hampshire players and coaches for a prayer following their Friday night matchup at Falcon Stadium.
The letter, written by Brendon Johnson of the foundation, stated that it is “illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer,” and that “public school coaches must refrain not only from leading prayers themselves, but also from participating in students’ prayers.”
In a response to the letter, Del. Gary Howell issued a statement defending the students’ and coaches’ right to join in prayer, saying, “Every American has a sacred fundamental right to freely express and practice their religious beliefs, and if the sight of a person praying in public is offensive to someone, that’s their problem and they’re the ones who need to learn to deal with it.”
This week, Johnson sent a letter of reply to Howell, taking issue with the Delegate’s comments.
“Separation of state and church is well-settled constitutional doctrine and the only guarantee for true religious liberty,” Johnson wrote.
“There is no freedom of religion without a government that is free from religion. A secular government is the only way to truly protect religious liberty for every citizen. When the government can coerce, demand, or even recommend or intimate that an American pray in a certain way or on a certain day, the religious freedom we all hold most dear is violated.”
The letter went on to state, “Government employees, such as public school coaches, may not wield the authority of their positions to push religious practices.
“The central point of my letter is simple: government employees may not use government authority—as coaches do when they participate in student prayer—to establish, endorse, or promote religion. “
The letter appears in its entirety on Page A4 of today’s edition.
In his letter of reply to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Ravenscroft wrote, “We are investigating the issues, as the facts may differ from those outlined in your letter.
“Nonetheless, we view this as an opportunity to work with our staff and athletic coaches on observing and upholding the First Amendment, its boundaries and requirements.”