The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been successfully coaching Deion Sanders on the constitutional separation between state and religion.
The national state/church watchdog reached out to the University of Colorado after multiple Colorado residents reported that Sanders in his new role as the university football coach has been suffusing football games and events with Christianity and engaging in religious exercises with players and staff members. Sanders “praised and glorified God during an introductory press conference Dec. 4 commemorating his new head coaching gig with the University of Colorado,” as a Christian media outlet gleefully reported. On Dec. 20, a staff member led other staffers in a Christian prayer to start an official meeting. And on Jan. 16, Sanders directed a staff member to lead players and coaches in Christian prayer before a team meeting:
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.
Public college-age students have the same rights to be free from proselytizing as public primary and secondary school students, FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote to Chancellor Phil DiStefano. Sanders’ team is full of young and impressionable student athletes who would not risk giving up their scholarship, giving up playing time, or losing a good recommendation from the coach by speaking out or voluntarily opting out of his unconstitutional religious activities — even if they strongly disagreed with his beliefs. Plus, the University of Colorado should not lend its cachet to religion, FFRF warned, since this amounts to a governmental advancement of religion that excludes the nearly 37 percent of Americans who are non-Christians, and the nearly one in three Americans who identifies as religiously unaffiliated.
The University of Colorado took note of FFRF’s constitutional advice and passed it on to Sanders.
“Last Friday, the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance personally met with Coach Sanders to provide guidance on the nondiscrimination policies, including guidance on the boundaries in which players and coaches may and may not engage in religious expression,” University of Colorado Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Patrick T. O’Rourke recently responded to FFRF. “Coach Sanders was very receptive to this training and came away from it with a better understanding of the University of Colorado’s policies and the requirements of the Establishment Clause.”
FFRF appreciates the University of Colorado taking seriously its commitment to secularism and diversity.
“We can’t coach Deion Sanders on sports-related matters, but we can certainly offer him corrective lessons on the Constitution,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We trust that our communication to the University of Colorado has been conveyed to him and that he understands students should not have to pray to play.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 39,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,200 members and two local chapters in Colorado. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.