TEMPE, AZ (CBS5) -A Valley football coach was ordered to stay away from the field on Friday night while his team played their homecoming game, and he won’t be at next week’s game either.
The problem: Tom Brittain prayed with his players at Tempe Preparatory Academy – a state-funded charter school.
The headmaster said it all boils down to protecting separation of church and state.
“He is a man who likes to pray and I don’t object to that,” said TPA headmaster Dr. David Baum. “Just, he can’t do that with our students. That’s the only prohibition.”
Baum said he recently suspended his head varsity football coach for two games because Brittain violated school policy after a recent, hard-won game in Show Low.
“He (Brittain) directed students to lead a prayer and he joined the students in that prayer and did so in view of everyone,” said Baum. “I think I preserved the religious freedom of our students, who have to have the liberty to be able to practice or not practice their religion on our campus, without interference by adults.”
But, some students and parents disagree.
A group of students at Friday’s homecoming game hung a sign that said, “We Believe” in Coach Brittain, as a show of their support for Brittain, who has been a coach at TCP for 12 years and a teacher there for 17 years.
Former TPA parent Keith Wibel wore a shirt to the game that said, “Let Tom coach.”
“I think it’s outrageous,” Wibel said. “Ray Rice gets two games for cold-cocking his fiancé and Tom Brittain gets two games for praying.”
Other TPA parents support Baum’s decision and said Brittain has been pushing his players to pray for years.
“The school is not a religious school,” said John Hicks. “It’s a regular school. So, it’s against the bylaws to in order for him to pray. It’s not that he’s a bad coach. But, you have to go by the bylaws in anything that you do.”
Brittain did not respond to CBS 5 News’ requests for comment.
But, he’s expected to be back with his team two weeks from Friday night.
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.