Allegation that coach led students in prayer ‘incorrect,’ Boyle superintendent says

Published 7:21 am Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Boyle County Schools says a claim that a soccer coach is leading prayers before games is “incorrect.”

“We investigated after I was contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation,” said Superintendent Mike LaFavers.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation contacted LaFavers claiming that middle school soccer Coach Daniel Montgomery “announced he will be guiding the team in prayer before each game,” according to a release from the foundation.

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“I hadn’t heard about it before they contacted me or I would have investigated the allegation,” he said. “It wasn’t true.”

LaFavers said he understood that the Freedom From Religion Foundation couldn’t investigate claims, but just respond.

“They don’t have access to students,” he said. 

To look into the matter, LaFavers charged Boyle County Middle School Principal Steve Karsner with investigating the claims. He said Karsner spoke to six of the players on the soccer team, some of the parents, as well as the coaches, and all had a similar story, but one that differed from the version the Freedom From Religion Foundation shared.

“Their answers were all consistent … A player asked the coach if he could lead prayer before the games. The coach told the player he could, but that it had to be the students doing it,” LaFavers said.

“Teachers can’t guide or direct (prayers) but they can’t stop students who are. Our coaches are directed in the same way.”

Kentucky Revised Statute 158.185 prohibits school employees from leading, directing or encouraging religious or anti-religious activity.

According to KRS 158.183, students are allowed to “pray in a public school, vocally or silently, alone or with other students to the same extent and under the same circumstances as a student is permitted to vocally or silently reflect, meditate, or speak on nonreligious matters alone or with other students in the public school.”

Students are also allowed to express their religious viewpoints, speak and discuss these viewpoints with other students, distribute literature on the matter and be absent to observe religious holidays. At the same time, students are allowed to demand that “this speech or these attempts to share religious viewpoints not be directed at him or her.”