It was an incredible upset victory last night in a game for the ages, as Clemson downed Alabama 35-31 in the NCAA National Championship Game on a last second touchdown.
To give some insight into the character of this national championship team, we’re looking back a couple years to the time an atheist activist group targeted Clemson’s new head coach,Dabo Swinney, who happens to be an outspoken Christian.
Football has been an area of focus for atheist activists of late, as organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely fire off letters to public schools, accusing coaches and staff of unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment.
And while some public school districts and universities end up investigating or, in some cases, completely backing away from prayer and other religious elements, Swinney didn’t shrink under pressure.
Swinney, a well-known Christian who is currently on top of the world after his team won the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game this week for the first time since 1981, apparently found himself in the crosshairs of the Freedom From Religion Foundation a few years back. National Review’s David French has more:
On April 10, 2014, the FFRF faxed a letter to the office of Clemson’s general counsel in which it complained that “Christian worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program.” The FFRF demanded that Clemson — a public university — not only require Swinney to “cease” his allegedly unconstitutional religious activities but also that it “train” the coaching staff and “monitor their conduct going forwards.”
Specifically, the FFRF claimed that Swinney had invited a man named James Trapp to become a team chaplain and gave him access to the team for Bible studies. They also claimed that Swinney scheduled team devotionals and “organized transportation for coaches and players to ‘Church Days.’” The FFRF claimed that even optional team religious events violated the Constitution, and that Swinney “sends a message of exclusion to those players on his team not in conformity with his personal religious beliefs.”
But rather than back down, Swinney released a statement defending himself, and Clemson University apparently backed him up. In his statement, the coach said he’s worked with recruits and players of “many different faiths” and that all are welcome on the team, so long as they “have good character” and fulfill academic requirements.
“Recruiting is very personal. Recruits and their families want – and deserve – to know who you are as a person, not just what kind of coach you are. I try to be a good example to others, and I work hard to live my life according to my faith,” Swinney continued. “I am proud of the great success we have had in developing good players and good men at Clemson.”
According to French, Clemson defended the coach as well, saying in a letter back to the atheist group that there had been no complaints against him; no action was taken against the university, though the Freedom From Religion Foundation made it known that the organization was less-than-pleased with Clemson’s response.
The university’s letter can be viewed below:
“The university’s response letter failed to address any specific factual or legal claims,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a statement after receiving the letter, though the group reportedly hasn’t pursued the issue further.
Swinney spoke out a year after the debate unfolded and doubled down once again on his stance, saying he and his team “weren’t doing anything (wrong)” and, thus, had “nothing to change.”
“People have just got to be who they are, it’s that simple. We’ve never tried to force anything on anybody,” he told the Post and Courier. “Everybody who comes here to Clemson knows who we are as people. There’s no surprises in that regard.”
So, there you have it. During an era when many are fearful, there’s an example of at least one coach who stood up for himself. Of course, if there is a viable violation, that’s a different story — and must be contended with. In this case, though, the coach and university maintained nothing was wrong and the situation was reportedly, thus, settled.
(H/T: National Review)
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