Report Of Coach-Led Prayer Stirs Controversy For Owasso Baseball

Friday, May 2nd 2014, 10:44 pm
By: News On 6

The Owasso baseball program is one of the most successful in the state, so it's used to getting attention, but this week the team was in the spotlight for a different reason, and for something they say never actually took place.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it was told by a concerned citizen in Owasso that high school baseball coach Larry Turner has a tradition of leading the team in prayer.

The FFRF told Owasso Schools this is a "…serious constitutional violation…", that coaches "…do not lead, organize, encourage, or participate" in prayers with players.

Zach Duffield is Owasso's athletic director. He said he immediately investigated the situation, but found nothing to back up the allegation.

"There is no coach lead, I can tell you that with 100 percent confidence. There have been no calls to the Owasso Athletic Department or the Owasso administration building objecting to anything that's going on as far as any kind of prayer going on," Duffield said.

He said it seemed to come from the misreading of a local newspaper article where Coach Turner is talking about his playing days for Owasso in the 1970's. Still, the case has people talking.

Owasso graduate, Kriste Schmitz, said, "Unless someone was objecting, and it was being ignored, then I can understand them stepping in, but I can't imagine that being ignored unless someone was having an issue."

"This is Oklahoma and Oklahoma has some very deep seeded faith," said Owasso resident Gary Stanley.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said separation of church and state is important no matter where the public school is located.

"The First Amendment and the Bill of Rights was created in order to protect the minority from the majority, and while it may not be popular with the majority of the citizens, it is unconstitutional and our Bill of Rights protects people who have minority viewpoints," said Rebecca Markert with FFRF.

Duffield is confident that coach-led prayers aren't happening at Owasso.

"I know we do things the right way. We're very proud of the way we do things here at Owasso," he said.

The attorney for Owasso Schools sent the Freedom From Religion Foundation a letter Thursday.

It says that district employees are not allowed to take part in prayers with students.

The FFRF said that they consider the matter resolved.