An atheist activist group is claiming that the head football coach at the University of Mississippi is unconstitutionally promoting Christianity by posting Twitter messages about prayer, God and the Bible.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation proclaimed in a press release that Hugh Freeze, the team’s head coach, “regularly promotes religion” on the platform, charging that this is improper considering his role at the public university.
A brief look at the coach’s Twitter account shows that he regularly inspires his followers with positive messages, Bible references and quotes about faith — elements the atheist group feels constitute a violation.
“Though FFRF respects Freeze’s right to tweet as a private citizen, he may not promote his personal religious beliefs while acting in his capacity as a university employee,” the statement said. “The @CoachHughFreeze Twitter handle appears to be an official account used in his capacity as head coach, given the account name and that the university publicizes Freeze’s tweets.”
Here's the best news ever, your eternal standing with God doesn't depend on the your goodness, but on God's unshakable faithfulness.- Tripp
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) April 4, 2017
The atheist activist group argues that the University of Mississippi is giving an appearance of endorsing Freeze’s tweets, as the coach’s tweets are reportedly shared on the school’s website.
And, as it turns out, the Freedom From Religion Foundation isn’t simply taking aim at Freeze; the organization is also claiming that coach Maurice Harris has “similarly religious” social media postings that the university shares, according to a statement.
The atheist organization penned an April 5 letter to the university asking that Freeze and Harris, among others, be told that they can’t promote their faith while in their official capacities, and that the University of Mississippi should stop showcasing social media accounts that share religious content.
Perfect people are not real, and real people are not perfect. pic.twitter.com/pD3CMakqqM
— Maurice Harris (@mauricejharris) April 8, 2017
“Ole Miss violates that constitutional mandate (the Establishment Clause) when it promotes religious statements or allows its employees to promote their personal religious beliefs while acting in their official capacities,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in its letter to University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation asked that these practices stop immediately and that the organization be informed in writing of the actions that will be taken to remedy the situation.
As it turns out, not everyone agrees with the atheist group’s assessment of the legalities surrounding the coaches’ tweets, with First Liberty Institute, a conservative law firm, encouraging the university to “ignore the FFRF’s letter.”
“Football coaches do not lose their First Amendment rights simply because they work for a public university,” Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with the law firm, told The Christian Post. “The First Amendment protects the right of Americans like Coach Freeze to engage in religious expression on their personal Twitter accounts, and our universities ought be places where tolerance, inclusivity, and diversity are promoted.”
Dys also likened the atheist group’s tactics to “intolerant bullying” aimed at silencing and censoring Freeze.
You can read more about Freeze and his Christian faith in this 2014 Washington Post piece.
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