The Air Force football team will have a moment of silence in the locker room before and after its game Saturday against Washington, but coach Fisher DeBerry will not lead a team prayer as he has during his previous 21 seasons as head coach.
Athletic department spokesman Troy Garnhart said the decision for a moment of silence came out of the academy’s senior staff meeting Wednesday in which athletic director Hans Mueh and academy superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa discussed what was appropriate under guidelines on religious expression sent down Monday by the Air Force. Until Wednesday, athletic department officials had said it wasn’t clear how the guidelines applied to a locker-room setting. DeBerry briefed his team on the new guidelines at the end of Wednesday’s practice, then declined comment moments later when asked by The Gazette how he felt about the decision. “All I’m thinking about right now is football,” DeBerry said. The guideline in question, which applies to all Air Force personnel, states that public prayer “should not usually be included in official settings such as staff meetings, office meetings, classes, or officially sanctioned activities such as sports events or practice sessions.” The guidelines also state that a “moment of silence for personal reflection does not require the same considerations as public prayer and may be appropriate in official settings.” Garnhart said players would not be directed to use the moment of silence to pray. DeBerry became a figure in the academy’s recent discussion of religious intolerance issues when Rosa instructed him last November to remove a banner from the locker room which said in part, “I am a Christian first and last. . . . I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.” During a panel discussion in February, De-Berry said players who did not wish to participate in past team prayers were not required to do so. “We get on our hands and knees and we wrap our arms around each other and we thank God for the opportunity of having competed that particular day,” DeBerry said during the discussion. In a statement DeBerry released in July, he said the banner and team prayers to the “Master Coach” had crossed the line of acceptable practices and would not happen again. Etc. Air Force is scheduled to take a charter flight to Seattle early this afternoon. After arriving in Seattle, the team will tour the Space Needle. Friday’s activities include a fish throwing contest involving two offensive and two defensive players at Pike Place Market. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT Washington at Air Force in Seattle, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC, 740 AM