The University of Michigan’s Wolverines football team defied atheists’ claims that attending an event with Pope Francis and touring the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square would pose a constitutional violation and proceeded Wednesday to do just that.
The visit to see the pontiff unfolded during a team trip to Rome this week, with students being given the option to visit the Vatican and see him speak if they so chose.
According to Rick Fitzgerald, director of public relations for the University of Michigan, the decision to visit the Vatican was up to the students on the trip. Emphasizing that the players are “adults,” he said they’re “able to make informed decisions on their own.”
“Some players who chose not to meet the pontiff today were able to join the tour of the Vatican, just as those who chose not to visit the Vatican had the opportunity to relax at the hotel or take advantage of other sightseeing options,” he told the Christian Post. “In fact, there were members of the football team who chose not to make the trip to Italy at all.”
FFRF urges Univ. of Mich. papal audience cancelledThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the University of…
But despite the fact that the visit was optional, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, released a statement on Monday imploring the school to “cancel a scheduled papal audience during its current visit to Europe.”
The group’s leaders, co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and husband Dan Barker, argued that the university, as a public institution, appeared to be favoring Roman Catholicism ahead of other religions — something they said is unconstitutional.
“Far from merely a speech by a celebrity, a papal audience is a religious activity in which the pope prays and delivers an ‘Apostolic Blessing’ upon those in attendance.” the statement reads. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for a public university to include a religious ceremony, particularly a sectarian one, on a European trip that an entire student athletic team is expected to attend.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation also argued that the event’s optional nature doesn’t excuse it, as the activists believe that the influence of coaches on players holds sway; some players, the group argues, won’t really see the event as being optional.
But while the group implored the university to reconsider its position, the school forged on with its plans. It’s unclear how or if the Freedom From Religion Foundation will respond to that decision.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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