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ACLJ Fights Back Against FFRF’s Assault on College Football Team Chaplains


Jay Sekulow

September 8, 2015

3 min read

Religious Liberty



On behalf of over 75,000 Americans, the ACLJ has just sent out a comprehensive legal letter rebutting the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) meritless assertions that football team chaplains are unconstitutional.

The FFRF’s latest effort to foist its wrong-headed interpretation of the Establishment Clause on the nation came in the form of threatening letters to fifteen universities with highly successful football teams.

In typical fashion, FFRF made outrageous claims that college football team chaplains who minister to the spiritual needs of Christian team members cause coercion and “religious discrimination” against unbelieving players.  In fact, the anti-Christian Freedom From Religion Foundation made the bombastic assertion that players and coaches voluntarily praying together is an "unholy alliance".

Our letter sets the record straight, explaining the fallacies in FFRF’s letter and assuring the Universities that football chaplains are constitutional under most circumstances.   We wrote:

As it so often does, FFRF mistakes offense for coercion, an error expressly repudiated in Town of Greece v. Galloway, 134 S. Ct. 1811, 1826 (2014).  In Galloway, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of voluntary chaplains invited to say a prayer before town board meetings. In its opinion, the Court rejected many of the same arguments advanced by FFRF. Emphasizing that “offense…does not equate to coercion,” the Court stated that adults should be able to withstand  “speech they find disagreeable,” without imagining that the Establishment Clause is violated every time they “experience a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views.” 134 S. Ct. at 1826.

University students understand that they will be exposed to a variety of religious and nonreligious views on campus. Sports team chaplaincies pose no threat to the rights of university students to hold their own religious views, any more than does graduation prayer, or for that matter, a professor’s avowed atheism. The Establishment Clause does not compel the expulsion of sports team chaplains who serve voluntarily to meet the spiritual needs of student athletes, any more than the Establishment Clause requires the razing of university chapels that exist to meet similar needs.

Our letter, clarifying the law and exposing FFRF’s nefarious intentions, is being delivered to fifteen universities: Auburn University, University of Georgia, University of South Carolina, Mississippi State University, University of Alabama, University of Tennessee, Louisiana State University, University of Missouri, University of Washington, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois, Florida State University, University of Mississippi, University of Wisconsin, and Clemson University.

If the angry atheists at FFRF bring lawsuits against any of these Universities, the ACLJ stands ready to ensure that FFRF maintains its long record of court defeats.  Angry atheists will not be allowed to trample religious liberty on campus.

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