The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a national organization dedicated to attacking religion in public spheres, “is redoubling its efforts to stop the unconstitutionally excessive piety in Auburn University’s football program,” with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall vowing to “vigorously defend” the university and “win” the battle.
FFRF has been hounding Auburn since 2014 over the football program’s chaplain, Chette Williams, but now the Wisconsin-based liberal group has become newly incensed after seeing a video of Williams leading the team in prayer before the Tigers’ victory over Southern Mississippi last month.
The organization, in a press release, complained, “In the video, Williams leads the team in an unmistakably Christian prayer.”
The prayer as follows:
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.
FFRF further claimed that the team was held as a “captive audience” by the chaplain.
“Auburn needs to shut down the prayer and chaplaincy that it has permitted for so long in its football program,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said. “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.”
To be clear, there is no evidence that Auburn University forces any player(s) to “pray to play.”
In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Attorney General Marshall fired back at the FFRF and assured Auburn of his staunch support.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation has long believed that it can intimidate public institutions into compliance with demands that it knows full well are not supported by the U.S. Constitution or any court,” Marshall said.
He continued, “While frivolous complaints should be ignored, I want Auburn University to know that it has the full support of my office. Should it be necessary, we will vigorously defend the constitutionally-permissible chaplaincy of Brother Chette Williams and we will win.”
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn