The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that labels itself as ‘a group representing freethinkers,’ went after Clemson University and head coach Dabo Swinney last season for his ties to Christianity and for the fact the football players at the SEC school attend bible studies together. Now, the FFRF has targeted Auburn University and specifically, chaplain Chette Williams.
A letter was filed with the President of Auburn University demanding the Tigers fire their team chaplain — “abolish the chaplaincy,” in its direct words — arguing an affiliation with the Christian religion could lead to discrimination of those who may not hold the same beliefs.
“It makes no difference if the chaplain is unofficial, not school-sponsored, or a volunteer, because chaplains are given access to the team as a means for coaches to impose religion, usually Christianity, on their players,” the FFRF wrote. “Under the circumstances, the chaplain’s actions are attributable to the university and those actions are unconstitutional.”
According to Teddy Mitrosilis of Fox Sports, the FFRF is also upset about the idea of Williams baptizing two former players, in addition to him routinely leading the team in prayer, and claimed he has an office in the football stadium. Auburn has denied that Williams has an office at Jordan–Hare Stadium.
Williams has been working with Auburn football since 1999 and is the campus director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He played for the Tigers in the 1980s.
Auburn University officially responded to the FFRF’s letter by releasing a statement yesterday:
“Chaplains are common in many public institutions, including the US Congress. The football team chaplain isn’t an Auburn employee, and participation in activities he leads are voluntary.”
The school’s main point is a valid one. Williams is employed by the Fellowship of Christian and not by Auburn University.
“If the team wants to worship, they want to get together on their own and have their own organized worship, that’s totally fine,” Andrew Seidel, FFRF’s staff attorney said. “We don’t have any problem with that. We don’t have any problem with them praying in whatever way they see fit, what we have a problem with is the top-down imposition of religion.”
My solution for the FFRF is not to strong arm schools into ‘firing’ people who have dedicated their lives to mentoring college athletes. If the FFRF is concerned about these young men and women, they would be promoting relationship building for the religions they represent.
This is how the FCA has been able to gain access. For years, they have built relationships and proven to the universities and to the sports programs how much they care about the lives of young people.
The tactics of the FFRF seem politically based and out of bounds.
Hats off to Auburn University for standing up for the student athletes who respect and appreciate the likes of Chette Williams.