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Ohio Coach In Trouble Over Prayer

A high school football coach in Ohio is coming under fire. It isn't his coaching record that is at issue, but his practice of leading his team in prayer before games, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.

In the Midwest, high school football is almost a religion. And Dave Daubenmire, the coach of the London, Ohio, team, says prayer is always in his game plan.

"When we come together and we say a prayer," says Daubenmire, "it is almost a bonding thing that says we are in this together. We are going to war together."

Now, coach Daubenmire is under fire, with some parents and players complaining that the coach is violating the Supreme Court ban on prayer in public school. Former players claim team meetings seemed more like Christian devotionals.

"He copied verses out of the Bible and made us take them home, and he read out of the Bible a few times and it just didn't feel comfortable to me," said one former player.

Daubenmire insists he wasn't preaching, he was teaching: "We might use a scripture says 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone,' and that was to tell them not to be fighting between yourselves. It was used as a lesson of life and it was never a religious issue."

Most of Daubenmire's players support him. Says Jamie Todd, a former player: "They were never forced or pressured to do anything. We made it clear if they didn't want to pray, they didn't have to pray."

At high schools across the country, prayer is part of the tradition for football players and their coaches. Yet the Supreme Court ruling is clear -- it must be student initiated and voluntary. The question is whether Coach Daubenmire crossed the line.

Janice Closser's son Patrick was a starter last year. "Coach Daubenmire had approached him about attending his church," recalls Ms. Closser. "I got really upset about it. I felt it wasn't his responsibility or even he had no right to approach my son."

Closser and other parents have tried to get Daubenmire fired. "These coaches and teachers represent the state, they represent the government, and the government should not take any steps that are going to actively promote religion," she said.

Daubenmire has agreed to stop leading team prayers. The players do it now, but the coach still insists that it's his moral duty and his right to do more than call the plays. He'll send in spiritual guidance, too.

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