A dispute over donated T-shirts sporting a Bible verse that basketball players wore during warm-ups at a New Mexico high school has come to an end with the head coach resigning.
That’s according to a letter from Supt. Loren Cushman of Animas Public Schools to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which raised the issue after a “concerned” community member complained.
Todd Starnes reported the coach allowed his players to wear the donated shirts inscribed with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” which is taken from Philippians 4:13 in the New Testament.
The coach, who was not identified, also was accused of holding Bible studies with players.
Starnes reported FFRF, which he described as “a Wisconsin-based group of perpetually offended atheists, agnostics and so-called free-thinkers,” boasted about the coach’s resignation.
“We’re pleased that the Animas school system took us seriously in remedying a constitutional violation,” FFRF co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor stated. “Such behavior cannot be excused in public schools.”
Many of the students, as well as the coach, attended the same church, where the coach was active in leadership. The church had arranged for the shirts, which were given to any player who wanted one.
FFRF wrote to the school: “It does not matter whether some players asked the coach to lead a Bible study or whether wearing the religious T-shirts is optional. Courts have summarily rejected arguments that voluntariness excuses a constitutional violation.”
The principal, Cushman, told FFRF that when he was the players “wearing the T-shirts during pregame warmups, I immediately questioned the coach and activity director.”
“I gave specific instructions at that time that this was not permissible and was not to happen again.”
Cushman confirmed the coach had resigned.
“It’s a mighty sad day in America when a high school basketball coach is deemed unfit because he is a follower of Jesus,” Starnes wrote.
FFRF posted social-media reports of its success, drawing a call for physical violence against the coach from one of its supporters.
Leroy Poudrier wrote on Facebook: “He was allowed to resign for ‘violating the constitution’? He ought to have had his a– kicked and jaw busted for rights violating.”