FFRF asks U. of S.C. to end its paid football chaplaincy

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's blistering report on unconstitutional Christian chaplains in college football programs highlights the University of South Carolina as one of the major offenders. FFRF wrote to USC President Dr. Harris Pastides asking him to abolish the chaplaincy and adopt the model policy in FFRF's report.

FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, charges that Adrian Despres preaches creationism, distorts his debating experience, proselytizes public university students and is paid by that public school—the University of South Carolina—to preach and recruit new football players. During the 2014 football season, Despres was paid $4,500 as a "character coach" to counsel players and speak to recruits.

In truth, he functions as the team chaplain, says FFRF. Head coach Steve Spurrier calls him "Preacher" or "Reverend." Spurrier has specifically said: "that's what he is, he's a preacher... He preaches the Word – the gospel ... what we all need to hear." Despres preached a series of sermons called "Christian Man Laws" to players, teaching them to "stop being sissies for Christ."

Click on photo to view YouTube footage.

Although the biology department at South Carolina teaches evolution, Despres preaches creationism, even claiming to have debated "some of the top evolutionists in the country on creation versus evolution." [Note: despite an exhaustive search, no such debates are readily available.]

Despres has unrestricted access to the team and players, saying "I'm privy to all the conversations, I'm in the locker room a lot." Despres also thinks the "number one need across the country on every football team is their need to deal drastically with sin." Of course, Depres tells those athletes, "Jesus is the answer!"

South Carolina's chaplaincy dates back to 1994, when Bobby Bowden's assistant, Brad Scott, took Bowden's first chaplain to South Carolina with him. Lou Holtz, who has defended football chaplains at public high schools, continued the chaplaincy, perhaps mistaking South Carolina for a private school like Notre Dame. Adrian Despres apparently took over in 1999. As the report maps out, many of the modern football chaplains trace back to Bobby Bowden's tenure at FSU.

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker called chaplaincies and de facto chaplaincies at public universities "a serious violation of the Establishment Clause and of student rights of conscience."

To view the full report explaining the depth of this problem in college football, go here
To view the two page executive summary, go here.
To view the records FFRF obtained from the University of South Carolina, go here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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