Ky. mother says coach took players to church revival

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

HARDINSBURG, Ky. — A Breckinridge County woman said her 16-year-old son was taken on a school bus with other football players to a church revival and baptized without her knowledge.

Michelle Ammons says she's upset about the event last month. She also said that school superintendent Janet Meeks attended the service at Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church and didn't object.

Ammons says she has consulted a lawyer but hasn't decided what action to take.

Ammons' son, Robert Coffey, told The Courier-Journal that Coach Scott Mooney told him and other players the outing would include a motivational speaker and a free steak dinner. But two other parents said their sons told them that Mooney had said the voluntary outing would include a revival.

Mooney said school district officials told him not to comment.

Meeks, the school superintendent, said she thought the trip was OK because no one was required to go and fuel for the bus was paid for by another coach.

Meeks, who is also a member of the Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church, said eight or nine of the 20 or so players who went to the church were baptized.

“None of the players were rewarded for going and none were punished for not going,” the newspaper quoted Meeks as saying.

David Friedman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, told the newspaper that the trip would appear to violate the First Amendment’s principle of separation of church and state.

“If players want to attend the coach’s church and get baptized, that’s great,” Friedman told the newspaper. “Coaches have great power and persuasion by virtue of their position, and they have to stay neutral.”

Matt Staver, founder and general counsel for Liberty Counsel, told The Courier-Journal that as long as the outing was voluntary and no public funds were used, it was likely constitutional.

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