Published November 17, 2014
Football and prayer don't belong in the same backfield, says a Florida dad who wants his hometown to stop a Pee Wee football league from having kids perform voluntary pregame prayers.
Louie Fromm, an assistant coach for the Holmes County Pee Wee Football Association, formally requested on Monday that the Vernon, Fla., City Council end the league's traditional 50-yard-line pregame prayer ritual, alleging that his and his son's First Amendment rights are being violated.
League officials say they are a private organization that takes no government money, and the city has no right to prevent them from saying prayers on the field before games. But Fromm says the league may be private, but the field on which it plays its games isn't. It's public property, Fromm says, and the city must order the pregame prayers to stop.
The case presents a conundrum for city officials, who say the prayers will continue as "business as usual" until the city's attorney delivers his opinion.
Debbie Gunter, the league's president, said a petition with nearly 500 signatures has been circulating in support of continuing the prayer.
"We have been saying prayers for four years and [Fromm] started complaining last year," Gunter told Fox News. "He has a problem with prayer, but while I don't have a problem with his non-beliefs, he shouldn't have a problem with ours."
But Fromm, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, told WJHG-TV that his son has been the target of isolation and ridicule from other players because he does not participate in the prayer.
He told the City Council:
"So those of you here tonight to hear the terms and conditions required to appease a single upset individual, I say to you that you have been grossly misinformed and blinded by a small group of religious fundamentalists who would like to convince you that a single individual is attempting to take away, of all phrases, your First Amendment rights -- when I am, in fact, here to make you aware that yours and your children's rights to religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution have already been hijacked by that very same group."
Gunter said the two-minute prayer is to stress good sportsmanship and faith in the 400-player league.
"We are Americans," she continued. "My husband and son have both served in the military and we stand for our beliefs."
Kerry Adkison, Vernon's city attorney, told NewsHerald.com that the matter was brought before the council because the city-funded Vernon Sportsplex is used for practice.
Council Chairman Trey Hawkins told attendees at Monday's meeting that "business as usual" would continue until a decision is finalized, the website reported.
"I apologize if most of you came thinking there was going to be a decision made tonight, but this is the first we’ve heard of this complaint," Hawkins told NewsHerald.com. "Until there is a decision made, it will be business as usual at the Sportsplex."
A Vernon city spokesman declined to comment further when contacted by FoxNews.com on Wednesday.