FFRF Asks Public Universities to End Their Sports Team Chaplaincies

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Auburn University asking them to eliminate the chaplaincy position in their football program. They’ve also sent similar letters to Georgia, Clemson, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Mississippi State. This was in conjuction with the release of their study, “Pray to Play: Christian coaches and chaplains are converting football fields into mission fields”.

The Auburn football program allows Rev. Chette Williams to organize prayer events before and after games. He can also be seen praying with various players on the sidelines during the games, as well.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, I suppose there certainly isn’t one if you are a Christian. But who is to say that each player on the Auburn football team and its staff is a Christian? Is it hard to believe that there may be at least one Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Scientologist, or even an atheist among them? Christians have this tendency to believe that everyone around them believes in their version of god. This would explain why they are so confused when someone asks them to stop just assuming that everyone wants to participate in their religious rituals.

I remember watching a documentary, although I cannot recall the title of it, where this Christian pastor traveled to Europe. He visited several countries that have a much higher population of secularists than we have here in the United States. He was taken completely by surprise at just how many people didn’t spend any time thinking about his god, or any god for that matter. But what really shocked him was when he started speaking to members of the clergy. Every single one he encountered in the film was an advocate for the separation of church and state, and opposed his viewpoint that Christianity should have a direct influence in governing and public policy.

American Christians continue to subscribe to the idea that the 1st Amendment only applies to them – that it protects their right to be a Christian, but it does not protect anyone’s else right not to be. You will often hear buffoons like Bryan Fischer say, “It’s freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion”, implying that the 1st Amendment demands that everyone belong to a religion. And, of course, that religion is Christianity.

Auburn University is a publicly funded university and, as such, is paid for by taking a certain portion of the tax revenue collected from the population. Those tax payers include numerous non-Christians, I assure you. So, if Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Scientologists, and even atheists are funding this university, then why do the Christians get preferential treatment? Why are their representatives allowed to access the team, but that privilege is not extended to any other religion or non-religious organization?

It is inevitable that someone will recite the excuse, “Well, it’s voluntary. They aren’t forcing anyone into participating.” Correct. They are forcing people into not participating. This isn’t an activity that is being done in private or, at the very least, being done separately. It is being done inside the locker rooms before games, on the sidelines during games, and on the field after games. Most importantly, the coach almost always participates.

What does that mean? Well, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe (2000), in which SCOTUS ruled that public schools cannot sponsor religious activity, many lower courts have ruled that student-initiated group prayer is still protected under the First Amendment, but only if it is not sponsored by the school. This is generally accepted to mean that, for example, student-athletes can pray before, during, or after games if they wished, but the coach or any other school official cannot participate in them. So, as an official employee of the school in question, and serving in that capacity at the time, the coach’s involvement in these prayer events could possibly have the effect of making them an official school sponsored activity, even if that is not the intention, making them unconstitutional.

But the bigger question is that why are so many Christians adamant about praying in public anyhow, especially when you take into consideration that their own religion frowns upon it?

In the New Testament, Matthew 6:1 says, “Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 6:5 and 6:6 says, “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”

So, according to Christian mythology, God is not very fond of Christians making a public spectacle of their praying.

It would appear that we could mark this down as yet another example of either how Christians are ignorant about their own scriptures or how they will profess their adherence to this mythology, but show themselves to be incapable of following its edicts.