What Should the Coaches Told Not to Bow Their Heads Do?

Daniel in the Lion's Den - Rembrandt, 1652, Pen & Brush

When Daniel was told not to pray, he knew he faced being thrown to the lions. When Christians in Tennessee are told not to pray, they may face a lion of a different kind, the unemployment “lion.”.”

Recently in Westmoreland, Tennessee, four high school football coaches bowed their heads during a student led prayer at a game. The school board has told them not to do this again – school employees are not to appear to take part in any way in a student-led prayer.

This week I heard attorney Scott Woodruff say that we have to teach our people to love liberty, we can’t assume that it is a given. Our religious liberty is a prime example. Our faith is a personal commitment that sometimes calls for public expression. It’s always easier to “go along to get along, “ than risk standing out among a crowd of believers and unbelievers, but if we allow fear or intimidation or simple embarrassment to make us to avoid appropriate expressions of our liberty, we may find that freedom slowly disappears.

How should these coaches respond? I think the first step should be a private appeal.  “I’m not trying to draw attention to myself or make a statement, but I share a common faith with these students and to deny that in public would be a betrayal of my Lord. May I ask respectfully that you reconsider this ban?”

But if the authorities are unbending, I think these coaches should continue their quiet public participation in these student-led prayers. Daniel did not make a spectacle of himself, but he knew that God had called him to pray, so he continued his quiet expression of faith – and accepted the consequences. God delivered Daniel and God is able to deliver high school football coaches, too.

I have often thought in America it’s less likely a Christian will be thrown to the lions than pecked to death by chickens. In giving up our freedom and in choosing to give up even these small, humble testimonies of our faith – joining a public prayer, praying over our own lunch in a cafeteria – is a step toward not only weakened freedom, but weakened faith. Our message to our sons should be “Know where you stand, choose your battles carefully, but stand fast when the time comes.”