Fellowship of Christian Athletes representatives were asked this week to halt activities in the Jefferson County Public Schools system based in Louisville, Ky., after Freedom From Religion Foundation representatives, along with its 150 Kentucky chapter members, filed complaints.
FCA is a faith-based ministry that combines sports and religion. The group's vision since 1954 has been to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.
Freedom From Religion Foundation staffers said the Fellowship of Christian Athletes had embedded themselves into athletic programs all over the Jefferson County Public School District, including in elementary schools. Specifically, FFRF asserted that the FCA group sent adult representatives to lead "voluntary" chapel or religious services during athletic practices at district schools, in some cases with the role of an officially designated "team chaplain."
The foundation's staffers believe these type of FCA occurrences raise serious constitutional concerns, indicating that any student-run FCA groups have to be truly student-led and initiated.
"It is a well-settled principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that public schools may not advance, prefer, or promote religion," FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote last month to Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens.
"Any school religious groups must be bona fide student clubs that are both student-initiated and student-run. It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for public schools to offer a Christian minister unique access to befriend and proselytize student athletes."
FFRF requested the school district investigate the matter immediately, and stop such behavior.
School district officials recently responded that they had taken corrective measures. Superintendent Hargens outlined in a letter to the head of the local FFRF chapter, Edwin Hensley, a number of steps that district employees had put in place to curtail FCA activities in local schools.
"The school district took the right, though belated, step to rein in the Fellowship," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Proselytizing organizations should never be given access to impressionable children."
On Facebook Wednesday, Joshua Cloyd sad FCA activities in schools were not just in Louisville, but the entire state. "(FCA) was very prominent and pushed by teachers when I was in school at Franklin County," he wrote.
Carol Franish Bitner suggested that all funding to schools allowing FCA in public schools be halted. "Charge them (FCA) rent on the building they are occupying, and tax the church doing the proselytizing. If they want to teach religion in their schools, let them build and fund their own. The Catholic church did it, so can they. Hit them in their pocketbooks, it'll soon stop."