The actions of a Kentucky high school football coach have been questioned after he took nearly two dozen players on a field trip to an evangelist church service where nearly half the kids were baptized.
Breckinridge County High School Coach Scott Mooney last month used a public school bus to transport the kids approximately 35 miles but arranged for a volunteer driver and promised to pay for the gas himself, according to Superintendent Janet Meeks, who attended the service and witnessed the baptisms of her public school students.
"It was completely voluntary," Meeks told ABCNews.com, noting that of the team's 46 players, about 20 elected to go on the trip. Of those attendees, nine were baptized.
"They didn't get anything for attending," she said. "They didn't get anything for not attending."
The mothers of one of the baptized boys has said publicly that she was upset to learn her son had been baptized without her consent on a trip sponsored by a public school employee...
The Courier-Journal reported,
[Player] Robert Coffey, said Coach Scott Mooney told him and other players that the Aug. 26 outing would include only a motivational speaker and a free steak dinner.An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, told C-J that the trip would appear to violate Supreme Court edicts on the separation of church and state — even if it was voluntary and the school district didn’t pay for the fuel.
“He said it would bring the team together,” Robert, a sophomore, said in an interview.
Two other parents, however, said in interviews that their sons told them that Mooney had said the voluntary outing to Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church in Hardin County would include a revival.
Mooney, contacted by phone, said school district officials instructed him not to comment.But Superintendent Janet Meeks, who is a member of the church and witnessed the baptisms, said she thinks the trip was proper because attendance was not required, and another coach paid for the gas.
“If players want to attend the coach’s church and get baptized, that’s great,” Friedman said. But a coach cannot solicit player attendance at school, he said, noting, “Coaches have great power and persuasion by virtue of their position, and they have to stay neutral.”
The Associated Press reported,
Forty-seven people at the Southern Baptist service were submerged in water, an act of obedience symbolizing one's acceptance of Jesus Christ as savior and "rebirth" in faith....
School Superintendent Janet Meeks, also a member of the church, said Tuesday in a statement on behalf of school employees that the coach's use of the school bus after school hours for an outside activity was allowed. He asked to take about 20 players to the church on the bus, the fuel cost was donated and a volunteer drove.
It is not known if the Breckinridge County Schools allow other citizens to use school buses without fees, so long as they pay for gas and provide a driver, or if this was a special privilege only afforded members of the superintendent's church.
A constitutional attorney in Kentucky said the coach and the school system broke the law.
"A school cannot promote an endorsed religion," said Edwin Kagin, a constitutional lawyer in Kentucky who focuses on religion cases with atheists. "Doesn't matter if it's poor judgment, it's a crime."
Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said most school districts in Kentucky have a policy that allows the use of school buses for extracurricular activities.
"There's nothing inherent in state law that would prohibit" a trip like the one the team members took aboard a school bus.
Gross said the department is aware of what happened but does not plan to investigate the trip.
Gross, went onto tell the AP that state law bans "adult-led religious activities," but only in a school setting.
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