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Today’s blacklisted American: Anti-religion group insists college football coaches have no 1st amendment rights

Freedom from Religion Foundation: hostile to freedom

They’re coming for you next: To get an idea the level of intolerance that now pervades America, one need only review the effort of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) to deny all first amendment religious rights to anyone who happens to work for a public university or institution.

Repeatedly FFRF takes legal action to gag any religious expression by public employees, regardless of whether they do it at work or on their own personal time. In the past, there might have been some valid arguments or situations where it was inappropriate for a public employee to push his or her religious beliefs, but nowadays organizations like FFRF define any religious activity by such employees, at any time, to be illegal and a violation of the so-called “separation of church and state” claimed by them to be the purpose behind the first amendment, when its real purpose has always been to make sure all citizens will be free to express their opinions and personal religion without government intervention.

In January, FFRF attempted to silence Deon Sanders, the football coach at the University of Colorado, because he repeatedly expressed his Christian faith in public, and asked his players to participate. According to its January letter to the University of Colorado [pdf], the University must gag Sanders.

The University of Colorado must take action to protect its student athletes and to ensure that Sanders understands that he has been hired as a football coach and not a pastor. We request that Sanders be educated as to his constitutional duties under the Establishment Clause. He may not promote religion in his capacity as head coach. We further request notification in writing of the actions the University is taking to ensure that Sanders will not continue to proselytize to his players or subject them to coercive team prayers.

Sanders has fought back, enlisting the non-profit legal firm First Liberty Institute to respond, noting in its own letter in March that any attempt to silence Sanders would violate his own rights.

“We write to correct the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s misstatements regarding the requirements imposed by the First Amendment on public school employees’ religious expression,” the letter from First Liberty Institute said. “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.”

It is now September, and Sanders continues to be quite vocal in his religiouis beliefs, and the university has taken no action. This stance in support of free speech is probably because of the recent Supreme Court decision that ruled a high school coach cannot be fired for praying on a football field.

More recently, FFRF sent a letter [pdf] to Auburn University in Alabama, condemning its football coach, Hugh Freeze, for participating in a baptism ceremony on his own free time and demanding the university take action to prevent the coach from praying at any time, with any student, even if the prayer was voluntary and on their own time. As noted in FFRF’s September 21, 2023 press release:

FFRF is asking the public university to take immediate action to protect its student athletes and to ensure that coaches understand that they have been hired as coaches, not religious leaders. The coaches and assistant coaches should be educated on their constitutional duties as university employees, FFRF insists. They may not lead or encourage any religious activities in their capacity as coaches and cannot participate in any student-led religious activities.

In other words, the first amendment is not intended to guarantee all citizens their liberty of conscience, but to ban all religious practice by government employees. If this doesn’t turn the first amendment on its head, I don’t know what does.

Auburn University and the government in Alabama has so far responded the same as the University of Colorado, essentially telling FFRF to pound sand. The Republican governor, Kay Ivey, called FFRF’s objections “misleading and misguided” as she defended Freeze’s right to practice his religion.

I have previously compiled a list of the many non-profit legal firms that now exist to defend the first amendment rights of Americans. FFRF is a good example of an organization on the other side: leftist, tyrannical, and intolerant of opinions and beliefs it disagrees with. Its goal is to silence open debate and religious freedom.

To understand the war we are in, it is important to know your enemy. FFRF is a good example of that enemy.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Michael Lee

    I really do wish people would read the establishment clause if full. That semi colon is not a period. The government shall not pass any law establishing a religon; nor interfere with the practice tehre of. That is why the Supreme Court ruled incorrectly. So I guess if a vending machine held Pepsi products; by their thinking Pepsi is the established soft grink of the Federal government

  • BillB

    I am always amazed at the mental gymnastics the FFRF go through. I would not be surprised to see them start to sue political office holders and government employees for having any connection to a religion, as it would taint those peoples’ decision making in their farcial view of the 1st Amendment.

  • SDN

    And in an obviously related ploy, Justice Barrett is being set up to be demanded she recuse:

    ““Several individuals” have contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigations about abuses by the Christian group that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been a lifelong member of.

    That’s according to The Guardian, which cited “sources familiar with the matter” to report the bureau has interviewed complainants alleging “they were abused by members of the People of Praise,” which the newspaper described as a “secretive Christian sect” — the left, to include many in the media, have long attacked the group for supporting traditional gender roles in families.”

  • “The Republican governor, Kay Ivey, called FFRF’s objections “misleading and misguided” as she defended Freeze’s right to practice HIS religion.”

    Isn’t there a distinction here where HE can practice HIS religion as an individual.

    That is his internal personal belief system, but is he instilling HIS personal internal religious belief system on those under his direction?

    If a coach wants to stop for a moment of personal expression of his beliefs on the field and say a prayer, that is one thing.

    However, if he insists his players do the same then he would be coercing them into his personal system of religious belief.

    Why the distinction? The Constitution ensures an INDIVIDUALS Rights.

  • Good luck silencing Coach Prime on *anything*.

  • GWB

    They are anti-Christian, not anti-religious.
    Progressivism’s god is their own mind and ego. The fact it’s not an idol of wood or metal or “some sky-god” does not make it “not a religion.”

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