Washington Gadfly

Advocate: West Point Coach Apologizing For Prayer Celebration

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Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist

Army West Point football coach Jeff Monken is apologizing today for making his team give thanks to “Jesus” in their locker-room victory celebration Friday night, says an advocate for players and parents who found his move creepy and un-constitutional.

Acting on complaints from six team members, two of them Christian, Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Mikey Weinstein on Monday contacted West Point about the incident.

“This [was] a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Weinstein told the Washington Gadfly, explaining that as a “state actor” the coach can not endorse or promote any religion. “Leadership has confirmed to me he is going to apologize towards the team. ”

Following his complaints, footage of Monken instructing an assistant to lead the team in prayer after they defeated Temple University in Philadelphia was removed from the athletic department’s official Facebook video.

Weinstein, who praised West Point Superintendent Lt. General Bob Caslen as one of the nation’s “finest” military leaders, also said the athletic department is going to implement procedures to prevent similar occurrences.

“I was asked to demand an IG investigation,” said Weinstein, an observant Jew and veteran of the Reagan White House and Air Force.  “We don’t think it is necessary. We are not trying to rub anybody’s noses it. Let’s move on and put it behind us.”

But if people don’t want to be left behind and are outraged that West Point removed the Jesus stuff from the video and want it back, they should argue with Caslen, who answers only to his superiors and the President.  Or the West Point graduates and military jocks’ parents who brought the incident to Weinstein’s attention.

“Coach Monken had no business telling my son and his Army teammates to get on their knees and pray a prayer to Jesus!” one irate parent told Weinstein. “My son was very upset about this. … This violates the Constitution and to think it happened at West Point?”