PITTSBURG, Texas (Christian Examiner) – A small town in the piney woods of East Texas is the latest target of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based anti-Christian organization which claims 21,500 members nationwide.
The group has taken aim at the high school boys baseball program based on a complaint by a local woman who says she does not want to give her name to protect her daughter and her daughter's friends in the town of about 5,000 residents.
"It's as if Christianity is being forced down their throats," the woman told KLTV News in Tyler, Texas. She does not have a son on the team.
She accused Pittsburg High School baseball coach Tommy Stewart of telling players that if they do not attend his Bible study they will be punished by having to run laps.
School officials denied the charge.
"He has about 30 boys and only 10 stay behind for a couple of sessions, so that tells you right there that it's not mandatory," Judy Pollan, superintendent of the Pittsburg Independent School District, told the media outlet. "He may show a movie or do studies on different things, but the whole purpose is to develop character and a winning attitude."
The complainant also charged a player told her the coach forced his team mates to wear practice shirts with the statement, "With God, all things are possible."
The superintendent disagreed.
"The kids expressed a desire to have something like that on their t-shirts," Pollan explained. "If it's something they feel strongly about, of course the coaches and staff will be responsive to it."
The atheist group has been active in attacking religious expression in East Texas schools.
In nearby White Oak Independent School District, a single student complained and a high school principal was forced in March to stop reading Bible verses as part of his sharing "postive thoughts" during morning announcements.
At Mount Vernon High School, FFRF was less successful in removing student-made banners with Bible verses and t-shirts with religious messages. Students in the deeply religious community fought back, according to the superintendent, protesting the outside interference by buying more of the Christian wear.