The Auburn Tigers will not be appealing for divine aid to improve upon their 5-3 season if the Freedom from Religion Foundation has any say in the matter.
The FFRF sent a letter last week to Auburn University President Steven Leath detailing their complaints about “proselytizing” in the university’s football program. The letter came in response to a post on al.com which featured a video of the football team’s chaplain leading players in a prayer before their September 29thwin over Southern Mississippi.
In the video, longtime team Chaplain Chette Williams gathered in a circle, locked arm in arm with the players, who were still wearing jackets and ties from the team’s walk to the stadium. Then Williams led the team in what the FFRF called “an unmistakably Christian prayer.”
Williams prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you so much again for this opportunity that we have every Saturday to circle up and hook up with each other, but more importantly, to hook up with you. We pray for each family represented in this circle, Father. We pray for those who are traveling to the game, but most of all Father, we pray that your power and presence be with this team today…We would just have a call, and each one of these players would recognize that call today as they go out on this field. And not only that, but to recognize the call in our lives spiritually. Father, we love you. We thank you so much for Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, and it’s in His name.”
The FFRF claims several people reached out to them after viewing the prayer on al.com. The Foundation then submitted a records request to Auburn’s Athletic Department to find out if Williams was paid by the university and to discover what their policies are related to the chaplain’s duties.
In the letter to Dr. Leath, signed by Christopher Line, they ask him to provide them with the information they requested immediately, respond with a request for more time to gather information, or provide a reason why they will not provide the information.
FFRF President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a released statement that, “Auburn needs to shut down the prayer and chaplaincy that it has permitted for so long in its football program. By allowing it to continue, it is giving its official seal of approval to Christian proselytizing that is not only unconstitutional but also alienating to non-Christian and nonreligious athletes. No student should be expected to pray to play.”
The University says that Williams is not an employee. While he is listed in the staff directory with a university phone number and email address, WVTM searched public records and discovered that Williams has never received any pay from the University.
Scott Slayton writes at One Degree to Another.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox/Staff
Video courtesy: Alabama Tigers on AL.com