Pittsburg ISD scrutinized for coach-led Bible studies

Published: Apr. 2, 2015 at 2:47 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2015 at 10:01 PM CDT
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Pittsburg high school superintendent Judy Pollan said the coach-led sessions are not mandatory....
Pittsburg high school superintendent Judy Pollan said the coach-led sessions are not mandatory. (Source: KLTV Staff)

PITTSBURG, TX (KLTV) - A concerned East Texas parent believes that the practices of her child's high school violate the First Amendment.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in Wisconsin is investigating reports that a Pittsburg high school baseball coach has required his players to attend the Bible study that he leads.

"It's as if Christianity is being forced down their throats," said the woman, who wanted to remain anonymous.

"Pittsburg is really small, everybody knows everybody. I don't want to cause any problems for my daughter or my daughter's friends."

The Pittsburg mother said that she learned that the coach, Tommy Stewart, tells his players that if they do not attend his Bible study, they would be punished and have to run laps.

Pittsburg ISD superintendent, Judy Pollan said that is simply not true.

"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." Pollan explained. "He may show a movie or do studies on different things, but the whole purpose is to develop character and a winning attitude."

Pollan also said that the study session probably began because the players approached the coach about wanting to learn more about growing up and being men.

Then there is the uniform. A practice shirt that the players wear that bears the phrase, "With God, all things are possible."

"I asked [a player] if everyone had to wear it and he told me, 'yes, it's not an option.'"

The superintendent said. again, it is up to the children.

"The kids expressed a desire to have something like that on their t-shirts." said Pollan. "If it's something they feel strongly about, of course, the coaches and staff will be responsive to it."

Sam Grover, the attorney for FFRF, said the organization is beginning an investigation into the complaint they received. Grover said if the coach led Bible study and sports t-shirt bearing a reference to God is happening at the school, these acts are illegal.

"It doesn't matter if the students are requesting these things." said Grover. "As a school official, a coach cannot lead a Bible study during school or during school sponsored activities."

Pollan said she has received no complaints from parents or students in Pittsburg about Coach Stewart or the baseball program.

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