Clemson Football Program Accused of Promoting Christianity

Image: Clemson Football Program Accused of Promoting Christianity Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney on the sideline at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 11:46 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Clemson's football program is being accused of promoting Christianity through its athletics department by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Madison, Wis.-based nonprofit that describes itself online as being "the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and skeptics)."

The FFRF sent a letter of complaint to Clemson University on April 11 in which it cited "constitutional concerns about how the public university's football program is entangled with religion," with the nonprofit's staff attorney Patrick Elliott claiming "Christian worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program."

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"While student athletes can pray, conduct Bible studies and engage in religious activities, the coaching staff, as public employees, should not be doing that with their student athletes," Elliott said in a separate interview with GreenvilleOnline.com.

"What we'd like to see is the end of this chaplaincy position and end to Bible distributions by coaches, an end to devotionals scheduled and put on by coaches and staff," Elliott continued. "The coaches need to step back and just coach (football) and not coach in religious matters."

In response to the complaint from the secular nonprofit, the university's chief public affairs officer Cathy Sams defended the football team's head coach Dabo Swinney, telling GreenvilleOnline.com that he has not forced his religion onto his players. Sams added, however, that the school is still investigating the matter.

While refusing to comment on the specifics of the letter, Sams said, "No one is required to participate in any religious activities related to the football program."

"It's purely voluntary," Sams continued. "Religion and faith is a big part of Coach Swinney's personal beliefs, but it is in no way required. There is no mandatory participation."

According to Elliott, the secular nonprofit he represents has no intention to take the matter to court, telling GreenvilleOnline.com, "That doesn't serve anyone's interests. I'd rather see government fix these problems."

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