There are signs of faith and prayer everywhere you look in sports these days.
The huddle of players kneeling in prayer on the field after every NFL game. Basketball players making the sign of the cross before shooting a free throw. Fingers pointed toward the sky after home runs and touchdowns. Signs for chapel services in baseball clubhouses. Bible study and Christian fellowship groups at high school and college campuses across the country.
"I don't think a relationship with the Lord only occurs in church or only in your own private lives," says Washington basketball Coach Lorenzo Romar. "Every moment you walk, you want to live in such a manner that you are acknowledging God's presence. You're trying to be his advocate, his ambassador. I don't think we turn it on and off."
But not everyone is comfortable inviting God into the game. Five years after the Supreme Court reaffirmed a ban on officially sponsored prayer in public schools with a ruling that said students couldn't lead crowds in prayer before football games, the question of who can pray together -- and how -- is far from settled.
A New Jersey high school football coach filed suit against his district two weeks ago, asking for the right to pray with his team before games. Marcus Borden had prayed with his East Brunswick players for years until some parents complained this fall and he was ordered to stop.
The family of a former New Mexico State football player plans to file a federal suit, claiming he was discriminated against because he's Muslim. MuAmmar Ali says he was criticized for reciting a prayer from the Quran instead of the "Our Father" the rest of the team was saying after practice, and was questioned about al-Qaida.
Air Force Coach Fisher DeBerry was told last year to remove a banner from the locker room that displayed the "Competitor's Creed," including the lines, "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."
"A lot of these issues are manifestations of things that are good. Mainly, that we have pluralism," says Richard Garnett, a professor of constitutional law at Notre Dame. "We are committed to two different values, government neutrality and the freedom of speech. I wouldn't want to give up one for the other."
But trying to find a middle ground is difficult, and sometimes painful.
Mustafa Ali, MuAmmar Ali's father, used to think society could use more prayer in public arenas. He and some of his co-workers have moments of prayer at work, and neither he nor his son objected when the Aggies ended practice with a prayer. But MuAmmar says he was criticized when he and two other Muslim players held their hands up to their faces and recited the opening chapter of the Quran.
MuAmmar Ali says coach Hal Mumme later called him into his office to ask about al-Qaida. Ali, the team's leading rusher last year, lost his starting job after the season opener and was later dismissed from the team.
A law firm hired by New Mexico State to investigate a grievance filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Ali's behalf said it found no evidence of religious discrimination. But Ali's father says the family plans to pursue its complaint in a federal suit. A call to New Mexico State was not immediately returned.