Clemson State

Clemson Football Blurs the Line Between Church and State

Clemson State
By Daniel Lin [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Patrick Elliott, the staff attorney of FFRF, has warned of a culture which forcefully injects religion into Clemson University’s football program.

Clemson University has received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on the issue of entangling religion in its football program. The subject was a matter of so much fierce debate nationwide in April that the administrative staff of FFRF was forced to answer abusive phone calls for seven days after the news broke on sports news and general news websites.

Clemson Football Blurs the Line Between Church and State[/tweetthis]

Religion was always inextricably linked with the university. The much acclaimed sports team has a distinctive pregame ritual which is Christian and easily recognizable. Football and faith blend harmoniously at Clemson. To the outsider, this blatant display of religiosity can be a little unsettling. However, as Dabo Swinney, the Clemson football coach, explains, as a Christian he believes that a light shines through him and he does not like to be persecuted for that. He also asserts that he will not persecute anybody for their different beliefs.

According to Swinney, his faith in God has helped to build the foundation for the success of the football team. The Tigers are ranked at the top and they have consistently performed to be one of the best teams in the state. The coach has dismissed suggestions he and his staff are breaking the boundary between church and state. Dan Radakovich, the athletic director of Clemson, supports this. He pointed out that the team follows carefully crafted guidelines and pregame invocation is always submitted to the proper officials prior to it being read before any game.

However, Patrick Elliott, the staff attorney of FFRF, has warned of a culture which forcefully injects religion into the football program of the university. He has cited a number of facts to buttress his claims.

Coach Swinney in 2011, personally extended an invitation to James Trapp to take the post of “team chaplain” for the Tigers. This move directly violates the constitution. It even breaks Clemson's own misguided rules.

Trapp, after accepting the assignment, was given complete access to the team. He conducted Bible study between drills. He also wrote Bible quotes on whiteboards in his office at the Jervey Athletic Center. The place became known as the place where Trapp led “baptism” sessions.

Swinney himself confirmed that the full team had attended a breakfast held by Fellowship of Christian Athletes where a number of players made testimonies. Trapp organized about 87 devotionals within a space of a year. Swinney approved each one.


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