Atheist group tells Georgia high school football team to punt the prayers

A Georgia high school football program may have God on its side, but not the Constitution, according to critics who say prayer and proselytization have no place in the playbook.

Football coaches at Chestatee High School in Gainesville are accused of quoting scripture on team documents and pre-game banners and regularly leading the War Eagles in prayer in a religious blitz the American Humanist Association (AHA) declares unconstitutional.

“There’s really no defense for doing this,” AHA attorney Monica Miller told “It’s not even solely student prayer — it’s teachers and coaches praying with students. And we have reason to believe it’s not an isolated event.”


Miller, whose organization sent a letter Tuesday threatening to sue Hall County Schools, said a “concerned citizen” notified the national nonprofit group that the 1,200-student school in Gainesville, about 55 miles northeast of Atlanta, appeared to be doing an end run around the First Amendment. The letter demanded that coaches cut team-sanctioned prayers and remove all Bible verses and other religious messages from team documents and materials.

The group was particularly outraged that outgoing Head Coach Stan Luttrell joined players as they held hands and prayed.

“At times, the head coach has led the prayers, which is an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause,” the letter continues. “This involvement in prayer as a ‘participant, an organizer, and a leader’ would unquestionably ‘lead a reasonable observer to conclude that he was endorsing religion.’”

The letter cited numerous cases of coaches and teachers leading team prayers during practices and after games and said the program cited scripture in

A workout log included a citation to Galations 6:9, which reads: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up," and a banner used for a pregame ceremony alluded to Proverbs 27:17, which reads: "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."

“Unfortunately, the school’s actions in unconstitutionally advancing and endorsing religion do not end with the prayers,” read the letter.

Gordon Higgins, director of community relations and athletics at Hall County Schools, told that district officials will probe the allegations.

“We will be investigating, but it’s really too early in the process for me to comment," Higgins said. "But we’re going to start looking at this right away and address any impropriety that we find."

Chestatee may have had a higher power on its side during the regular season last year, when it posted a respectable 9-3 record. But it lost in the state playoffs to Sunday Creek by a 55-7 score.