Cranford, NJ—American Atheists this week sent a letter to the Steven Leath, President of Iowa State University, demanding that the university address comments made by new men’s basketball head coach Steve Prohm about his plans to bring his personal religious beliefs into his role as coach.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register published on June 25, Prohm appeared to say that he would lead mandatory prayer sessions during basketball activities and that he wanted players to have “a strong faith.”
“Our objection isn’t with Mr. Prohm’s personal faith. Our objection comes when a person in a position of power uses that position to impose his religious beliefs on students and other staff who are under intense pressure to conform,” said Amanda Knief, National Legal and Public Policy Director for American Atheists.
“As an Iowa State alumna and Iowa native, I know that these student athletes face challenges every day. Worrying that not praying could cost them their scholarship or playing time is not something they should have to deal with,” added Knief.
The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that prayer in a public school setting, including athletics, is unconstitutional, whether participation is “voluntary” or not.
In the letter, American Atheists urged President Leath to reaffirm the commitment of Iowa State University to protect the First Amendment rights of all of its students and the rest of the coaching staff.