'Religious freedom' group claims West Point football coach should apologize for post-game prayer

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Former Army Black Knights running back Larry Dixon (26) runs during the third quarter of the 115th annual Army-Navy Game in 2014. | Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

WEST POINT, N.Y. (Christian Examiner) – The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has filed a complaint against the head football coach of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after a video of the coach asking his players to pray went public.

Following the team's win over Temple in Philadelphia last week, Coach Jeff Monken asked the cadet football players to take a knee and then asked another member of the staff to pray for the team. That prayer is unconstitutional, according to MRFF's Mikey Weinstein – who frequently warns of "Christian triumphalism" and Christian plots to take over the military.

Weinstein said the video had been viewed more than 230,000 times and shared more than 2,000 times via social media. He also told Army Times that he had been contacted by 44 academy graduates, 40 West Point staffers, and six of the football players seeking assistance on the matter.

According to the military newspaper, Weinstein phoned West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen to complain that the coach had chosen "the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong manner" to pray with the athletes.

"He can't tell anybody, put your hand on someone and let's pray. You can't do it, particularly when you're the head coach (of a public school)," Weinstein told the paper.

Weinstein said he expected the coach to apologize to the team for the incident, but said the matter will likely be handled without litigation (assuming the coach does admit he was wrong). West Point is reportedly investigating the matter and setting procedures in place that will prevent coaches from praying with athletes in the future.

MRFF complained last year about the prayer gathering of U.S. Air Force Academy cadets on the field before their football games. Weinstein alleged that the prayer was a violation of the First Amendment, but the Air Force disagreed and said the players had not violated regulations in the voluntary prayer.