Attorney: OK for football coach to extend invite to worship service

Thursday, September 5, 2013
Bob Kellogg (

Liberty Counsel says a complaint registered by an atheist organization was out of bounds in trying to stop an off-campus religious service that was being promoted by an Arkansas high school coach.

Coach Paul Calley posted the following invitation on the “Bryant Hornets” Facebook page to the traditional football team worship service on Sunday, August 25: “I would like to invite anyone and everyone that would like to join us in worshiping The Lord and kicking off the football season the right way! This tradition has been a blessing to me, our staff, our players and all of our families and we would love for you to come and share in this exceptional experience with us!”

Three days before the worship service at Otter Creek Assembly of God (Little Rock), the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation – in a letter to Bryant Public Schools superintendent Randy Rutherford – said the coach’s actions were “a clear violation” of the Constitution.

“He may not organize a religious worship service for his team, nor may he invite players to attend such a service,” read the letter [PDF]. “Bryant Public Schools must take immediate corrective action, including instructing Coach Calley to cancel this team event.”

But Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, contends the coach had every right to extend the invitation. “This is a private event off campus, and certainly a teacher has a right to able to invite students to any private event off campus – including a religious service,” the attorney tells OneNewsNow.

Staver, Mat (Liberty Counsel)

Staver also points out it was not an event that was being mandated or even sponsored by the school.

“Schools are not involved in it; they’re not promoting it, they’re not orchestrating it,” he states. “He’s not acting in his official capacity as a coach of the school – he’s acting as an individual. This is voluntary and it’s after school; it has nothing to do with the school – so that’s the end of the story.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that the school has a duty to remain neutral toward religion and that the religious service “breached that duty.”

The worship service was held as scheduled.

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