Army Investigating Whether Team Prayer Following Win Violated Religious Freedom Of Players

WEST POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The U.S. Military Academy removed a video clip of the football team’s postgame locker-room celebration after its upset win over Temple and is investigating whether a team prayer violated the religious freedom of the players.

West Point spokesman Francis J. DeMaro Jr. said Thursday that a third party made allegations the video violated the First Amendment rights of some of the cadets. DeMaro said the video, which was posted on social media, was removed pending the inquiry, which was first reported by Army Times.

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said head coach Jeff Monken crossed the line after the game last Friday night in Philadelphia when he asked a staff assistant to conduct a prayer that ended with Jesus.

“In this case, Coach Monken chose the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong manner,” Weinstein said Thursday. “He can’t tell anybody, put your hand on someone and let’s pray. You can’t do it, particularly when you’re the head coach (of a public school).”

Weinstein said the video received 232,000 views and 2,000 Facebook shares. He said he started getting “inundated” with phone calls, texts and emails, including 44 from West Point graduates, 40 members of the academy faculty and staff, and six football players, prompting a call to West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.

“Coach Monken had no business telling my son and his Army teammates to get on their knees and pray a prayer to Jesus!” one parent reportedly emailed Weinstein. “My son was very upset about this. … This violates the Constitution and to think it happened at West Point?”

Weinstein, who said the video was replaced by an edited version, said he was expecting Monken to offer an apology later Thursday.

“We assume that there’s going to be an apology from the coach to the team,” Weinstein said. “We are assuming there’s an admission there was a misstep.”

Weinstein said Army athletic director Boo Corrigan was putting procedures in place with all coaches at the academy that will prevent a similar situation from happening. Because of his relationship with Caslen, Weinstein said he does not plan to file a third-party inspector general’s complaint on the issue.

The MRFF, which claims 47,300 clients, questioned a practice by the Air Force Academy football team late last year after players began kneeling in prayer prior to games. The academy found it was within regulations.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments

One Comment

  1. Good grief. I am not the least bit religious, and wouldn’t call myself any sort of “believer” but this is getting ridiculous. Yeah, sometimes the “praying” over everything gets annoying, but if the majority of the people that I am in common endeavor with are Christians or whatever, then a little annoyance isn’t much to sacrifice to maintain good will. I have never been harmed by anyone’s prayers. Not a Christian’s, a Muslim’s, a Sikh’s, or anyone’s. So these “try hard” atheists need to learn to bend a little when there is no harm being done. And besides the harm invented in the mind, there is no harm being done.

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  3. Doug says:

    Keep praying to Jesus Christ, Blood of Christ, once you leave Christ out, you’ve opened the door to Satan and the globalists.. which is already here.

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