Arizona athletes, coaches react after Supreme Court rules in favor of coach praying with team

Rex Gonzalez said he has no problem with coaches leading their team in prayer, just as long as they clarify that everyone does not need to participate.
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:47 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 Monday in favor of a high school football coach who liked to pray with his players after games. All six conservative justices sided with the coach from the state of Washington, whose quiet prayer ritual grew into a major event at the 50-yard line, with players joining in while the crowd was still in the stands.

The school district said it never restricted the coach from offering silent prayer and suggested an alternate place to pray off the field. But the coach refused and was later fired.

Former Pinnacle High School baseball player Nick Frat said he’s been on several teams where they’ve prayed before and after games. “We’re praying for good health,” said Frat. “Praying for a good day to make sure everyone gets on and off the field OK and has a great day while we’re out there.”

Rex Gonzalez runs the T-Rex Baseball Club in Scottsdale. He also coaches at a Valley High school. Gonzalez said he has no problem with coaches leading their team in prayer, just as long as they clarify that everyone does not need to participate. “I know with our club teams, there’s been times thatteams want to do a prayer at home plate,” said Gonzalez. “I always look at players and go, you are more than welcome to do it. Don’t feel like you have to, that’s plain and simple as long as its not pushing it down people’ throat.”

“I think it’s just our given right as American citizens, we should have First Amendment right to pray or not,” said Gonzalez.

But not everyone agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision. Several parents say it’s not as simple as just offering students a chance to opt out of a team prayer. They claim that just having the prayer at all puts real-life pressure on students to participate. They also say it can make student-athletes feel like they must participate, or they could lose playing time.

Ben Rundall with ACLU AZ said It’s something students shouldn’t have to deal with at a public school. “I think by elevating the rights of school officials expressing religious opinions, it kind of begs the question, ‘What about religious rights of students? What about their right to be free from this kind of influence in the public education setting?”' said Rundall. “They don’t have those rights anymore, as of today’s decision.”