The college football season hasn’t even officially begun, and Colorado coach Deion Sanders is already getting flack for his religious beliefs.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) -- an nuisance atheist group that tries to shut down public expressions of Christian faith -- sent a letter to Colorado University saying that the school must tell “Coach Prime” to not publicly express his Christian faith while a school employee. The letter ends with a threat to sue the school if it doesn’t comply.
Fox News reported that FFRF demanded Colorado teach Sanders about "his constitutional duties under the Establishment Clause" and to "ensure that Sanders understands that he has been hired as a football coach and not a pastor,” and that he "will not continue to proselytize to his players or subject them to coercive team prayers."
FFRF cited an incident on January 16 before a team meeting in which Sanders prayed:
“Lord, we thank You for this day, Father, for this opportunity as a group. Father, we thank You for the movement that God has put us in place to be in charge of. We thank You for each player here, each coach, each family. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.”
Horrifying stuff, eh?
Why anyone would find it problematic that a coach would pray and thank God for his chance to coach and the players he leads is beyond me. There is no demand that players or staff to become Christians, and certainly does not sound like Sanders makes an exhaustive effort to be more of a pastor than a coach.
Some people really just have no lives.
The First Liberty Institute (FLI) has come to Sanders’ defense and said that the FFRF has egregiously misjudged the situation and that Sanders should not have to stand for these accusations. They used the precedent set by the SCOTUS in the Kennedy vs. Bremerton case to show that Sanders was within his constitutional right to pray before the meeting and should not be forced to stop.
“We write to correct the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s (FFRF’s) misstatements regarding the requirements imposed by the First Amendment on public school employees’ religious expression,” a letter from First Liberty Institute read. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that public school employees may engage in religious expression and exercise; therefore, public universities like CU may not target Coach Sanders (or other members of the football staff) for exercising constitutional rights on campus.”
Sanders has had to undergo training from Colorado to make sure that he understands how he can and cannot express his religious views in the future. But given how outspoken he is (one does not acquire "Prime Time" as a nickname for being reticent), there’s no guarantee he would follow the school’s protocol.
Time will tell us how Coach Prime handles the situation.
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