Photo ignites school prayer debate for suburban district

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. – A photograph  that shows football players and coaches praying at a game has sparked a complaint  against a suburban high school.

The photo made its way to an atheists group in Madison, Wisconsin and that organization sent a letter of complaint to the district which responded by saying no more prayers at games.

The photo taken in November by Naperville photographer David Neesley captured a moment many familiar with football have seen before.  It shows Naperville Central High School team taking a knee with their heads down and looking as if they maybe saying a quick prayer before taking the field.

The photo may have gotten the public school team and their coaches into constitutional trouble.

The nationwide group Freedom from Religious Foundation has 23,000 members and is based in Madison, Wis.  It’s a nonprofit that fights to ensure separation of church and state.  The group sent a letter to the Naperville school district saying it was wrong because it appears  the coaches are endorsing a religion.

The district responded to the organization and to WGN with a statement saying:

 We are aware that a coach-led prayer is not appropriate. The head football coach has been instructed that neither he nor his staff may lead his players in prayer.  This message has been communicated to the athletic directors at both high schools to ensure that this expectation is shared with coaches of all sports at all levels.

The Freedom from Religious Foundation says they get more than a thousand complaints each year many having to do with high school sports.

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