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High school football coach suspended for praying with team

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TEMPE, Ariz. (KPHO) – A football coach in Arizona was banned from the field after school leaders say he prayed with his players.

Tom Brittain is the head varsity football coach at Tempe Preparatory Academy, which is a state-funded charter school.

However, he was suspended for two games because he violated school policy after a recent win.

“He (Brittain) directed students to lead a prayer and he joined the students in that prayer and did so in view of everyone,” said Dr. David Baum, the school’s headmaster. “I think I preserved the religious freedom of our students, who have to have the liberty to be able to practice or not practice their religion on our campus, without interference by adults.”

Baum says it boils down to protecting the separation between church and state.

“He is a man who likes to pray and I don’t object to that,” said Dr. Baum. “Just, he can’t do that with our students. That’s the only prohibition.”

However, some students and parents disagree with the move.

A group of students at Friday’s homecoming game hung a sign that said, “We Believe” in Coach Brittain,’ as a show of support for Brittain.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Keith Wibel. “Ray Rice gets two games for cold-cocking his fiance and Tom Brittain gets two games for praying.”

Others are supportive of the school’s decision to suspend the coach.

“The school is not a religious school,” said John Hicks. “It’s a regular school. So, it’s against the bylaws to, in order for him to pray. It’s not that he’s a bad coach. But, you have to go by the bylaws in anything that you do.”