The West Point (Army) football team earned a substantial upset road victory (28-13) over Temple University on September 2, 2016. After the game, Army head coach Jeff Monken directed an assistant to lead the team in a victory prayer. A video of this prayer was then posted to social media by West Point. MRFF was subsequently contacted by 46, predominantly Christian, West Point cadets(including 6 members of the football team), faculty and staff as well as 44 West Point graduates (both active duty and veterans) who felt that this type of coercive religious activity by the leadership of the team was extremely illicit. MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein immediately contacted West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen on behalf of MRFF’s clients, relaying their extreme objections to this type of leadership- lead religious activity.
On September 10, 2016, journalist Dan Lamothe reported on his military block Checkpoint on The Washing Post that “The top general at the U.S. Military Academy said that “valid concerns” about separation of church and state were raised by people who questioned why the Army football coach asked a staff assistant to lead his team in prayer after an upset victory last week.” Lamothe reported that Lt. Gen. Caslen said:
From a legal and leadership standpoint it was incorrect for Monken to direct or strongly encourage a prayer while serving in a leadership position at a government-funded public institution. It creates an atmosphere where it is expected from everybody to say a prayer regardless of their faith or no faith. It’s like me as the superintendent of the Corps of Cadets saying, ‘Let’s take a knee and say a prayer together.’ I don’t have the authority to do that. I cannot use my position of authority — my public position of authority — to direct my subordinates to do something that is inconsistent with their rights. So, that’s probably where we crossed the line.
As a result of Mikey’s interaction with Lt. Gen. Caslen, Lamothe reported in his blog for the Washington Post that:
Caslen said this week that Monken would apologize to his players and the issue would be addressed, prompting Weinstein to hold back on filing a complaint with the Defense Department inspector general, Weinstein said.