University of Colorado Hoops Coach Told to Quit Praying with Players

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - Men's head basketball coach Ricardo Patton of the University of Colorado Buffaloes has been threatened with a lawsuit unless he quits praying with his players.

On February 22nd, the Colorado ACLU sent a letter to the University of Colorado in Boulder demanding that Patton cease praying with the men's basketball team after practices and games or else legal action may be taken.

The Rutherford Institute based in Charlottesville, VA, has intervened on Patton's behalf.

Patton has stated that the prayers are voluntary and are led by the players.

On several occasions over the past four seasons, members of the team reportedly have assembled in a circle and prayed after practice without Coach Patton's presence.

Team members reportedly have used this opportunity to pray for each other and family members. Once, a player prayed for a teammate's mother who had cancer.

On another occasion, players reportedly prayed for teammate Josh Townsend and his family after the loss of his sister, Lauren, one of students killed in the Columbine High School shootings.

In response to the threat of legal action, John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, issued a letter to the Boulder County ACLU demanding that they cease and desist from threatening Coach Patton and the University of Colorado for the coach's alleged participation in prayer.

The Rutherford Institute also demanded that any further ACLU communication with Coach Patton and the University be directed to the Institute.

"Free exercise of religion was one of the most important factors in the founding of this country," Whitehead said. "That the ACLU would attack Coach Patton for supporting his players in doing something they feel is right, which in this case happens to be praying, is unfortunate. The First Amendment clearly protects the rights of adults who want to pray together voluntarily on a public university campus."

Whitehead stated that The Rutherford Institute is an international, non-profit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.