National group files complaint over Dawson County prayer

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A national organization has filed a formal complaint against the Dawson County School District over what they believe is a violation of students' constitutional rights.

In a Facebook video included in the complaint, Pastor Russell Davis can be seen leading the Dawson County High School football team and some youth players in a pregame prayer.

"The concern obviously is for students who are non-Christian or non-religious, who are going to be forced to participate in religious rituals," said Chris Line with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. 

Davis, according to the complaint, was listed on the football team's website as the "football character coach."  The site now lists him as a "volunteer."

No matter what his title, Line said Davis's actions promote religion in a school setting, a violation of the First Amendment.

"We're hoping the school district will take action to protect the constitutional rights of its students by having this pastor stop praying and preaching with the team," said Line.  "We specifically ask that he be removed from the team."

The school district said Tuesday that it has reviewed the complaint.

"The School District became aware on Friday of a letter sent to the attorney for the District by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and apparently also mailed directly to local news media," Superintendent A. Damon Gibbs said in a statement.  "After reviewing the information provided and conversations with appropriate school officials, the District is committed to following the parameters set forth in the First Amendment, and the court decisions interpreting the First Amendment, relating to both the establishment of religion and student’s rights to exercise their freedom of religion.  We believe that our coaches have an understanding of those guidelines and will abide by them."

Line said the school district has not reached out to him nor the Freedom from Religion Foundation to address their concerns.