Sunday, December 1, 2013

Calling for Attention?

Since the early 2000s in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, Mount Carmel Area football teams have concluded the pre-game warm up routine with a full-team quarterback sneak to the end zone where each player could optionally kneel to pray before going back to the locker room while the band played. This past season, head coach Carmen DeFrancesco decided to remove the option for players to pray claiming that it was a way for players to draw attention to themselves. Parents of players, former players, and current players were all outraged due to the team losing its option to pray. The area is heavily populated with Catholics but is also home to different groups of Protestants and occasionally Jewish, Muslim, and Asiatic religious followers. Another reason the public finds this change strange is due to the history of the act. In the short history of the prayer at the end of the warm-up, the Red Tornadoes added two state titles (2000, ’02) to go along with the previous three (1994, ’96, ’98), an Eastern Conference Championship (’09), and four District Championships (’00, ’02, ’08, ’11). This was DeFrancesco’s fourth year as head coach and after a first round playoff elimination there was suspicion that he would be removed due to lack of success causing the parents to not take action believing the next coach would allow the action. Recently however, it has been hinted that DeFrancesco will be returning for a fifth season causing the parents of players to return to expressing their displeasure towards the coaches ruling of removing the end of warm-up routine.

(Eric Joraskie - Former MCA Tornado)


Coach DeFrancesco’s main claim for stopping post warm-up prayer is that this prayer ritual gives the individual player the opportunity to draw attention to his self. As a former player in this program being from Mount Carmel, I felt as though coach DeFrancesco’s decision to remove this prayer opportunity very troubling. I felt as though the removal of the prayer opportunity was not justified as players would remove their helmets, take one knee, and silently pray. Once they finished their personal prayer the player would put his helmet on and jog back to the locker room. In no case was there ever a player drawing attention to his self, not even the last person off. This really upset me because I had been the last player off my entire senior year and the thought that one would interpret my practice of religion as an attempt for attention made my religious activity seem like a show. This is the same point brought forth by parents as a reason for their disliking. For a coach to insinuate that players would use religious activity in order to gain attention is to call the religious activity into question as sincere. Secondly, I found this act to have two consequences in religious freedoms. The first reason is that by eliminating this religious act could be viewed as hostility to religion. The removal of this action keeps players from having an opportunity to express their religious duties and practices. The second reason is the preference of one religion over another. Being a mainly Catholic community, the team recites the Hail Mary prayer together. This prayer is primarily a Catholic tradition and forcing a team to participate without the opportunity to practice their individual religion is insensitive to other religions that team members may be a part of. I believe that the practice should be reinstated because it gives a player a chance to make a personal religious connection before a game in which one may pray for safety, success, or whatever he pleases. While I believe that the coach’s choice should be obeyed as a player, I do not believe that this matter should be dropped. Players should have the opportunity to take that time to pray personally, especially in the hectic pre-game ritual, this opportunity may be the only chance one gets to make a personal connection with their religious beliefs before engaging in competition.

7 comments:

Liz L. said...

The prayer should be permitted. The prayer is nondenominational and optional for the entire team. Drawing attention to oneself is not a valid argument for preventing this practice, as one can draw attention in numerous (nonreligious) ways. The players themselves do not have a problem with the prayer. Just because the coach is offended by this does not mean that he has the right to limit the free speech and freedom of religious exercise of his team.

Cori T said...

I agree with what Adam and Liz have said. The prayer should be reinstated. It is optional, so players are not forced to partake and it is also individual and a personal act of faith. I like what Adam said about how the coach's reason for getting rid of the prayer judges the religious practice's sincerity, something that the coach really has no right to judge (especially since as a class we have talked about how the Supreme Court cannot/should not get into judging sincerity).

Nicole D said...

I agree with what everyone has said, I think that removing the option to pray silently is hostile to religion. If he had made an Establishment claim I might be a little more hesitant in my decision, but praying a Hail Mary prayer together before the game seems to be a larger violation of the Establishment Clause. I think that his reasoning is in direct violation with the freedom to freely exercise the player's religion.

Dan W said...

I am torn on this issue. I understand that denying the opportunity to pray may be hostile to religion but why must it be done on the field? What is wrong with praying in the locker room? However, I recognize that it is plausible that praying on the field in public as opposed to in the locker room could be a part of the tradition of one or many players which would alleviate that concern. The other concern I have about allowing prayer is the necessity to allow other religious rituals, such as prayers to Allah (which are performed differently than those to the Christian God) and Buddhist meditation. How far will "tebowing" go? These are arguments that one must consider before allowing prayer.

Jennie M. said...

I agree with what has been previously said, especially if there are no players on the team who are uncomfortable with the prayer on the field. If, as Dan proposes, there are students on the team of differing faiths, I think efforts should be made to make sure they do not feel alienated or unsupported by the practice of a pre-game prayer.

Benjamin S said...

I agree with the majority of the comments here, but I also agree with Dan. The prayers are non-denominational and entirely optional. I personally would not have a problem with it. However, I believe the coach can lead his team the way he wants to lead them. If he thinks the prayers are taking away from the larger goals at hand, then that is his prerogative. Maybe he just wants more time in the locker room before the game? I honestly do not think he is trying to limit free exercise in anyway. In terms of the religious connotation of the practice, I think it is dicey to limit a practice that would offend so many. I guess I'm torn.

Kaela Diomede said...

I agree with Dan in a sense that I am torn on this issue. I think that the prayers are fine, as long as no one takes issue with them happening. Perhaps the prayers do not have to take place in the middle of the field and could occur someone where more private since a prayer is supposed to be a personal and private moment. I think that should anyone take issue with the prayers, including a coach, then their beliefs need to be respected.