This might actually go somewhere. It has the feel of one of those stories that starts out in obscurity and ends up on ESPN. And, it involves our dear friends (cough) at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in the news recently for attacking clerical tax breaks. The FFRF is well known for threatening small schools and school districts with lawsuits which they can't afford. Now, they may be getting ready to take a bite out of Clemson.
With God on Our Side
...At Clemson, God is everywhere. The team's chaplain leads a Bible study for coaches every Monday and Thursday. Another three times a week, the staff gathers for devotionals. Nearly every player shows up at a voluntary chapel service the night before each game.
The players all know the coach's favorite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: "Run your race to win, don't just run the race."
Before they ever joined the team, some of them prayed with coaches on the phone during recruiting calls. On recruiting visits, they heard from Mr. Swinney: "I'm a Christian. If you have a problem with that, you don't have to be here."
Once they arrive, among the first people they meet are two men nicknamed Thunder and Lightning, former Clemson stars who became preachers after their playing days. Their focus, they say, is turning young players into men. But much of the time, they are sharing Christian messages. Last month, when a recruit's mother asked one of them to describe his job, he told her, "I'm in charge of praying—period."
Christian influences are common in college football, but many people see Clemson as unique. Its approach plays well in this deeply religious state. But it raises questions about the appropriate place for God at a public university...
James F. Barker, the university's president, says the football staff is careful to offer religious guidance only when players seek it. He compliments Mr. Swinney for building a program—10-1 ahead of this week's clash with South Carolina—that has been successful on and off the field.
"One of the things we like to emphasize here is the importance of character," Mr. Barker says. "Sometimes it's hard to take spirituality out of that."
But critics say the university should be more mindful about alienating players who do not share the prevailing belief.
"You can't stop someone from expressing their own views," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an advocacy group. "But if the university has a culture of evangelizing on the football team, that needs to stop."
Even if students are not being coerced, she says, the repeated religious messages are inappropriate for a state-funded institution. "They need to honor freedom of conscience and not take students who are impressionable and need their approval and push religion on them."...