WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — A couple hours before a game each Friday, several Valley High School football players gather for a voluntary chapel. Hosting it is Chris Barr, the team’s self-proclaimed chaplain who also provides moral support on the sidelines during games.
Last Friday, just hours before kickoff, Barr was forbidden from holding chapel and was suspended from the game. West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) released a statement saying in light of several written concerns, laws regarding religion in public schools and legal counsel, Barr will not be allowed to hold chapel or attend games for the foreseeable future.
According to the Iowa High School Athletic Association, “prayer shall not be permitted prior to IHSAA-sponsored events.” Many claim that this does not apply to Barr’s voluntary chapel because it does not take place on school property or during school hours.
One parent was extremely vocal in representing over 30 parents Monday night at the WDMCS school board meeting. She said Barr’s presence on the sidelines is not religiously affiliated.
“He promotes unity, decency, integrity and respect,” said West Des Moines parent Michelle Coleman. “We demand of our young people to hold themselves to a higher standard and represent themselves and their school with honor, and yet you have removed a vital figure in their life from standing side by side with them before and during their competitive endeavors.”
An online petition to “Keep Chris Barr as Tigers Chaplain” started by a Valley football player has over 1,200 signatures. Players also took a knee in the end zone at last Friday’s game in Barr’s absence.
Although Barr is not employed with the district, his future with the Valley football team is unsure heading into the homecoming game this Friday.