Nearly three-quarters, specifically 73 percent, of the public believe football coaches at public high schools should be allowed to lead their players in Christian prayer during games, while only about one-quarter, or 24 percent, say they should not, according to a new Public Religion Research Institute survey released Thursday.
The institute's fourth annual survey of sports and religion, conducted among a random sample of 1,009 Americans, examines attitudes about the popularity of different sports, the safety of football, gambling and fantasy sports, concerns about professional football, and prayer and sports.
A Seattle-area high school football coach made headlines recently when he was suspended from his job after refusing to halt praying in public during games. He's now filed a federal discrimination suit, according to The Seattle Times.
For other examples covered by The Gospel Herald, read: 'Tebow Prayers' At Air Force Football Games Called 'Scandalous,' Shouldn't Be Allowed, Says Former Military Minister.
There is agreement across the religious landscape on whether prayers during sports constitutes permissible activity, although the strength of agreement varies, cites the study.
Ninety-three percent of white evangelical Protestants agree that football coaches should be allowed to lead players in Christian prayer during games, as do 80 percent of Catholics, 77 percent of non-white Protestants, and 76 percent of white mainline Protestants.
Even most religiously unaffiliated Americans appear comfortable with this idea: 55 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans say coaches should be allowed to lead players in Christian prayer, while 40 percent disagree.
The survey also found less interest in future football, with more people saying they would not allow a young son to play the game.
"An overwhelming number of Americans believe that football is more dangerous than other sports. However, they also think the hard-hitting nature of the game is either integral to the sport or at the very least it's acceptable," said Dan Cox, research director for the institute.
When asked what bothered them most about professional football, violence was mentioned by only 17 percent of those surveyed, behind athletes' off-the-field behavior:
- 32 percent agreed, "Players care more about money than the game."
- 21 percent cited players as "poor role models."
- 7 percent said, "It encourages negative treatment of women."
- 2 percent mentioned concussions or brain injuries
Football remains the favorite sport list for 38 percent of U.S. adults. Basketball was a distant second at 11 percent.