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Published On: Mon, Apr 28th, 2014

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney discusses faith, recruiting as FFR group complains

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney has responded to complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation expressing “constitutional concerns about how the public university’s football program is entangled with religion.”

In a statement released by the university, Swinney asserted that religious activity is not a requirement of his program.

“Over the past week or two, there has been a lot of discussion of my faith,” he said. “We have three rules in our program that everybody must follow: (1) players must go to class, (2) they must give a good effort and (3) they must be good citizens. It is as simple as that.

“I have recruited and coached players of many different faiths. Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character.”

According to the Wisconsin-based FFR foundation, Swinney has promoted a culture in the program that promotes Christianity and violates constitutional guidelines of the separation of church and state.

Swinney did not address the specific allegations from the FFRF directly. Swinney did address how the topic of his faith is broached during recruiting visits with prospective athletes even though the FFRF did not submit a specific complaint about Swinney’s recruiting practices.

“Recruiting is very personal,” Swinney said. “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.”

“His religion is not the issue; it is his proselytizing in a public university football program,” the group said. “It is a bedrock constitutional principle that government employees cannot abuse their position to advance their religion.”

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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  1. Guzzman says:

    A good starting point for analysis of religion in public universities is the quote by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990): “There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”

    The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause constrains only the government from promoting or otherwise taking steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through its employees, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., coaching, teaching), they effectively ARE the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please.

  2. ed-words says:

    Coach can ‘explain’ all he wants. He either doesn’t know, or care, that the courts have ruled against tax-supported institutions promoting religion through its employees or
    representatives.

    His God only hears prayers led by coaches?

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