Atheist Organization Accuses Clemson of Mixing Religion and Athletics


The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based atheist organization, has accused Clemson University of endorsing Christianity within its football team.

In a letter sent to the Senior Associate General Counsel of Clemson University, April 10, the Foundation blamed the University for interweaving religion and athletics.

It has pointed to an instance where Coach Dabo Swinney invited Minister James Trapp as the Clemson Tigers Chaplain. The group says that the invitation is a clear violation of "Establishment Clause" and the school's "Guidelines For Athletic Team Chaplains" which states that students must select their chaplain first and then seek permission from the coach.

The organization also protested against Christian worship in the athletic program - recitation of Scriptural passages, distribution of Bibles and compulsion to attend church, Huffington Post reports.

Echoing similar sentiments, Brad Wolverton said in a Chronicle of Higher Education article, "The players in fact are well aware of the coach's favorite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: "Run your race to win, don't just run the race." The article further states nearly every player attends a voluntary chapel service before every game.

Clemson authorities have opposed the claims by saying that they do not force religion on players, instead they welcome athletes belonging to different faiths.

Responding to the allegations, Swinney told Wolverton, "I've had Muslims, Catholics-I've got two Mormons on this team right now. When we get out on the football field, it's not about if you're a Christian, it's about who's the best player."

Cathy Sams, chief public affairs, said that Coach Swinney believes in religion and faith. But players are not forced to take part in religious activities related to the football program. It is voluntary.

In the letter, FFRF urged the university to drop Christian methods of coaching.

"Coaches should be aware of the tremendous influence they have on their athletes," FFRF said in the letter. "These young men spend a great deal of time in their coach's charge, and the coaches through their own example must be sure that athletes are not only treated fairly but also imbued with a sense of community and camaraderie."

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