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Take expletives, not religion, out of football
Freedom From Religion Foundation goes after schools that hire chaplains. It may have an argument on that. But banning coaches from being openly Christian is taking things too far. - photo by Brad Rock
As the Freedom From Religion Foundation continues the important business of butting into other peoples business, it has again found fertile ground. This time it largely involves the southeastern United States, where football and religion are king and sometimes indistinguishable.

Its hard to find a Southerner who doesnt pray for the local college football team.

Thus the FFRF, with nearly 23,000 members, recently issued a news release condemning about two dozen public universities for allowing football coaches to impose their personal religion on players by hiring Christian chaplains.

There are far worse things. For instance, hiring lowlife coaches. Thats another story. But there is some reasoning behind the FFRFs point about chaplains being hired by universities. Before long, the schools might need to hire a rabbi, a Tibetan monk, an astrologer, a shaman and a warlock to make everyone comfortable.

If a player wants spiritual advice, its easy to find a local minister. Or he can try for a private religious school.

At the same time, demanding that coaches remain neutral on matters of religion is overstepping. If a coach is a practicing Christian think Clemsons Dabo Swinney, Georgias Mark Richt, South Carolinas Steve Spurrier or Cincinnatis Tommy Tuberville that would mean changing who they are.

Nobody ever told Nick Saban, Mike Leach or Urban Meyer who think four-letter words are illuminating to stop being themselves. That doesnt mean they dont foster character, but nobodys telling them to dial down the rhetoric.

Meanwhile, the FFRF never sleeps. Among its recent victories are removal of a portrait of Jesus in a Jackson, Mississippi, middle school, banning a monument of the Ten Commandments in a Wisconsin park and nixing team prayers. The latest came in a release entitled Pray to Play with a summary deck saying, Christian coaches and chaplains are converting football fields into mission fields.

It rejects the defense that players are free to decline participation, claiming the pressure is still there.

Publicly funded payments to support hiring and/or travel expenses for chaplains might be debatable. But coaches shouldnt have to hide religious beliefs that define them. Why change their life philosophy to accommodate an outside partys objections?

Being openly Christian is part of being Christian.

Everyone recruited to Clemson knows Swinney is a faith-based man; the same applies with Richt at Georgia.

I cant come to work and not be a Christian, Swinney told The Charlotte Observer in 2014.

The FFRF says coaches shouldnt use religion as a recruiting tool. But apparently sex appeal is OK. (Hello, warm weather colleges.)

Nobody made anyone sign a letter of intent. The FFRF claims universities are bankrolling Christian ministers. In that case, they should jettison half the faculty at many colleges. They too are being bankrolled to preach their own brand of religion.

The complaint includes such items as paying Georgia Tech chaplain Derrick Moore $7,500 and South Carolinas Adrian Despres $4,500. The football coaches make that much money during a timeout.

So this is about principle.

John Wooden, a devout Christian, would have laughed about this.

Anyone who has attended college knows making choices is part of the experience. Students are smart enough to decide whether they want to buy into the religious aspects. The FFRFs proposed policy suggests schools hire a character coach because thats a way to foster values such as humility, perseverance, respect, sportsmanship and teamwork.

Sounds a lot like the traits a Christian coach (gasp!) and his chaplain would teach.

I dont mind team chaplains. Most do considerable good, in my mind, regardless of what the FFRF thinks. But I can see it could get out of hand as demands for other religious representations pop up. As for changing how coaches teach, the handwringers need to butt out. If universities started screening coaches based on religious neutrality, that would be discrimination.

Maybe the FFRF should work on figuring that out.
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