UW-Madison agrees FFRF deserves equal treatment

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is now the proud owner of an official University of Wisconsin-Madison football helmet signed by Coach Paul Chryst and legendary coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez. The helmet will be included in a silent auction at FFRF’s convention Oct. 9-10 in Madison at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.

During its investigation of the long-running chaplaincy within the Wisconsin football program, FFRF learned that the team’s chaplain, Catholic priest Mike Burke, regularly received memorabilia to auction off for the benefit of his church, St. Maria Goretti Parish. The church uses the proceeds of the annual auction for religious functions, including “religious education and youth ministry programs” as well as “adult faith formation and evangelization.”

In 2014, Burke’s church auctioned off multiple memorabilia items signed by Wisconsin coaching staff, including head football, basketball and hockey coaches.

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott submitted a “Charitable Donation Request” form in July for signed memorabilia items similar to items received by the church. The Athletic Department approved the request and agreed to provide a signed football helmet and make coaches available to sign other items. FFRF will also auction off a signed football, a basketball signed by Coach Bo Ryan and a private tour of Camp Randall Stadium.

“We appreciate that the University of Wisconsin is offering the same treatment to FFRF as it has to the Catholic Church,” said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But we believe a public university should not be in the business of donating items for religious or nonreligious programs. As long as the university chooses to support Christian programming, it must keep a level playing field and provide similar treatment to our secular organization and others.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation