Group wants Clemson, Swinney to stop team prayers, Bible studies (+survey)

Columbia - The StateApril 15, 2014 

Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney (right) and offensive coordinator Chad Morris (left) react during the first half in the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Sun Life Stadium.

JOSHUA S. KELLY — USA TODAY Sports

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, in an April 10 letter of complaint to Clemson University, charges that the Tigers’ football program and coach Dabo Swinney are entangled with religion, in violation of the constitution.

“Christian worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program,” wrote Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Patrick Elliott. “We are concerned that this commingling of religion and athletics results, not from student initiative, but rather from the attitudes and unconstitutional behaviors of the coaching staff.”

The group wants Clemson to direct Swinney and chaplain James Trapp to stop team prayers, sermons, bible studies and “church days” for players and train staff about their First Amendment obligations and monitor compliance.

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“Mr. Trapp, as a paid employee of a state university, may not proselytize or promote religion and may not use his university office to do so,” Elliott wrote. He also serves as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes representative and as a football recruiting assistant. A website lists him as campus director of ministry/life coach, and he refers to himself as a minister.

“Mr. Trapp’s legal duties and obligations as a state employee prohibit him from using state resources (i.e., his office in the Jervey Athletic Center) and his official position as a recruiting assistant to proselytize. If Mr. Trapp is to evangelize the team, he must not do so as the recruiting assistant, nor can it be at coach Swinney’s insistence.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison, Wis.-based state-church watchdog with about 20,000 members nationwide and 155 in South Carolina.

-- From staff reports

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