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Freedom from religion group says Clemson football is too religious

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney talks to his players before the start of an NCAA college football game Saturday against South Carolina State, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.(AP Photo/ Richard Shiro) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney talks to his players before the start of an NCAA college football game Saturday against South Carolina State, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.(AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)

Some say college football is like a religion in the south. One activist group thinks Clemson is going a little too far with that idea.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has not fostered a culture adhering to the separation of church and state, the Freedom From Religion Foundation says. The group recently filed a formal complaint to Clemson suggesting Swinney leads the football program against the constitutional stipulations of the separation of church and state, The Greenville News reports.

“No one is required to participate in any religious activities related to the football program,” Clemson chief public affairs officer Cathy Sams told The Greenville News when asked about the complaint. “It’s purely voluntary. Religion and faith is a big part of Coach Swinney’s personal beliefs, but it is in no way required. There is no mandatory participation.”

The purpose of the foundation’s complaint is not necessarily to prevent Swinney from believing what he does, but instead to ensure Swinney is not preaching to his players, so to speak. Among the recommendations made by the organization to Clemson included removing the university’s chaplaincy position, a position the group says was used by Swinney to arrange Bible studies and share religious materials.

“What we have observed in the records is that the football coaching staff is doing a number of things to promote Christianity to their student-athletes,” foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott said. “While student-athletes can pray, conduct Bible studies and engage in religious activities, the coaching staff, as public employees, should not be doing that with their student athletes.”

Whether Swinney is truly guilty of anything here may be up for interpretation. I am not a religious person, but even I would prefer the head coach of my team dabbling in promoting a faithful culture as opposed to one looking the other way when it comes to mischief and violations. If promoting a spirit of Christianity is crossing the line, it may not be the worst line to cross.



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