Foundation Calls Foul Over Coach (October 2000)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is charging officials at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with stonewalling the Foundation’s request to investigate a religion question posed to prospective UW Women’s basketball recruits.

Among the facts collected for a dossier on each prospective recruit by the UW women’s basketball program is “Religion.” Foundation president Anne Gaylor said she believes this may be unlawful, and, at minimum, considers it “certainly inappropriate.”

This is the third major complaint the Foundation, a national watchdog group based in Madison, has made to the UW-Madison about coach Jane Albright, a self-described born-again Christian.

The Foundation protested when the coach arranged an exhibition game with the Christian Athletes-in-Action in November 1995, permitting religionists to distribute proselytizing material to the crowd during halftime, and to hold a religious postgame service. The Foundation also notified the UW that the coach was using campus mail to proselytize, and had instituted regular pre-game prayers.

The Division of Inter-Collegiate Athletes responded to the Foundation’s complaint with a June 14, 1996 “policy clarification,” saying it will maintain an environment “free of harassment or intimidation based on religion beliefs or practices.” The statement concludes: “The mission of the Division does not include sponsoring religious events or activities.”

However, the very month the clarification was issued, the Foundation was contacted by the family of a young girl enrolled at the coach’s summer basketball camp for 4th to 12th graders, reporting Albright included proselytizing sessions. Following the Foundation’s request that this be investigated, UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward wrote the Foundation on June 26, 1996, promising that “future camps will not include any policy violations.”

“It does appear that Coach Albright is uneducable on this issue,” Gaylor noted. “Wouldn’t she be happier working at a Christian college?”

Gaylor also expressed dismay at the “prying” quality of the questions in the dossier, which records personal information on the prospect’s “boy friend,” “best friend,” and “kind of car,” as well as religion.

Albright told the Capital Times (Oct. 4) that if a “girl” would mention that she attends church every Sunday, Albright would arrange a visit to church if the recruit visited campus.

Freedom From Religion Foundation