Pittsburg residents respond to Freedom from Religion's investigation
PITTSBURG, TX (KLTV) - A city of East Texans rally behind their coach after allegations that the Pittsburg high school is violating the First Amendment.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization based in Wisconsin, is investigating into whether Pittsburg ISD has been promoting religion in school.
A Pittsburg high school varsity practice jersey, that reads, "with God, all things are possible," is one of the subjects of the investigation.
The Foundation's staff attorney, Sam Grover, said FFRF received a report that baseball coach and Pittsburg school administrator, Tommy Stewart, leads a Bible study for players after practice, and that those who don't participate, are punished.
Pittsburg ISD superintendent, Judy Pollan, maintains that the Bible study is not mandatory.
Dalton Warrick, a Pittsburg high school varisty baseball player, agreed.
"We are a team that supports God,” said the high school sophomore. “Nothing is forced on us."
Stewart has coached Warrick for two years. This year, Warrick said that he never attends the Wednesday night Bible studies that Stewart holds in a school classroom after practice.
"We've never been punished because we didn't go [to the Bible study]." he said. “Conditioning is a part of baseball.”
Though Warrick does not attend the study sessions this year, he said he is very familiar with Kingdom Men, the Christian based video series by Tony Evans that he said Coach Stewart shows the players.
"[Stewart] asked us, he said 'would you like to do the Kingdom Men series?'" said Warrick. "It's about how to be a man and growing up and the things you're going to have to do to be the man of your household."
Pittsburg high school students said the hallways have been buzzing about the allegations.
Senior Ana Johnson, who leads a student Bible study and prayer group on campus, said she noticed a positive difference.
“We have the occasional students who will talk, even after the teacher had said that it is time for the moment of silence."
That didn't happen today.
"It was surreal for [the students].” Johnson said. “They realized that these are the moments that we need to hang on to because they might get taken away from us."
Johnson said she has noticed many emotions aimed at the person who made the complaint.
"There does seem to be some anger, but as we are standing firm for God, striking in anger and rebellion is not the way." Johnson said.
Pittsburg resident, Robert Peoples, said he's disappointed in what he has seen on social media.
In particular, Peoples said he saw a post that recommended that the person who made the complaint “be shot and be moved out of Pittsburg."
"If we're going to talk about God, if we're going to talk about Christianity,” said Peoples. “Then let's be Christians about it."
The FFRF said in a letter on Thursday to the school that the T-shirt and the campus Bible studies violate the Constitution and holdings by federal courts in this country.
Copyright 2015 KLTV. All rights reserved.