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'I never forced a single kid to pray': Former Ohio football coach reflects on SCOTUS ruling

The case of Dave Daubenmire closely mirrors Monday's U.S. Supreme Court Case involving another football coach.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Decades before Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protected a Washington football coach kneeling on the field to pray after a game, former London, Ohio football coach Dave Daubenmire faced a similar outcry for his blend of football and religious teachings.

"We prayed in the locker room before the game. I never denied any of that. We prayed with the team afterwards on the field. Parents came out and joined us," he said.

In June 1999, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the London City School District saying that a member of the London High School Coaching staff had led prayers and passed out scriptural verses to players, breaching the First Amendment wall of separation between church and state. 

"I would say hey fellas here's the scripture of the week," Daubenmire said.

The case was settled, with the district paying $18,000 in court cost, but Daubenmire was never found at fault.

The former coach said seeing the high court rule in favor of another football coach who blended religion and football makes him feel proud.

"I was right. I felt somewhat vindicated," he said.

"When you are a public school employee, when you are a police officer, when you are a firefighter, when you work for the county sewer department or whatever else, you are government at that point. You are an extension of government. You are an agent of the government," said Gary Daniels an attorney for the ACLU.

The ACLU believes Monday's Supreme Court ruling could open the door to allowing prayer in schools.

"You don't push your religious beliefs on other people and you especially don't do it on a captive audience you have control over as in the case with a coach or player or a teacher or a student," Daniels said.

As for Dave Daubenmire, he says he misses coaching but has no regrets about his religious coaching style.

"I never forced a single kid to pray," Daubenmire said.

10TV asked the Ohio School Boards Association if they will be updating its policies in light of the Supreme Court's decision. The association responded saying:

"OSBA's role is to serve public school board members engaged in the governance of school districts. In that role, the association will be providing information and assistance to districts about the Kennedy decision soon. As always, when legal decisions, or changes to federal or state laws, regulations, or rules, affect the operations of school districts, OSBA will provide analysis, information and resources to enable its member districts to understand how those changes affect them as they work to meet the needs of their students and communities. OSBA also will assist districts to whom it provides policy services in a review of their current policies and recommend any necessary changes to ensure policies are consistent with the decision."

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