By David Niose
The American Humanist Association sent a letter to a school district in Hall County, Georgia, this week, warning that the high school football program was unconstitutionally injecting religion into its activities. As church-state disputes go, this one was not exactly a close call: the coaches were praying with students, even sometimes leading the prayers, and constantly promoting Christianity by placing Bible verses on all sorts of documents and other materials.
As AHA’s legal director, even in fairly routine matters such as this I’m usually prepared for some backlash. There are always a few who will insist that our request for government religious neutrality is somehow an “attack on Christianity,” which of course it’s not.
It’s always nice, therefore, when the response from the school in question is calm and respectful, not overly defensive or emotional. And in this case, the Hall County school officials gave us just such a signal initially, as they sent us an immediate reply saying they would investigate the claims and get back to us.
Outside the official school channels, however, the response was not so encouraging. In fact, in some instances the responses were more akin to what you’d get if you were fundraising for the Obama campaign at a KKK meeting: Commenters expressed outrage, hostility, and even threats, many of which would be unfit for publication.