A few weeks ago, the atheist group the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent letters to a number of American colleges and universities demanding that the schools fire the (volunteer) chaplains of their football teams.
Why does the atheist group claim schools must abolish their chaplaincy? According to the foundation, appointing a football chaplain in a sports team is unconstitutional, and a form of "religious discrimination."
The FFRF's threats of litigation against 15 colleges and universities comes on the heels of a report released by the foundation on college football chaplains and coaches entitled "Pray To Play," which alleges that "Christian coaches and chaplains are converting football fields into mission fields."
Now, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian non-profit organization, has jumped to the defense of Louisiana State University, one of the schools that received a letter from FFRF. The ADF sent a letter to Louisiana State pointing out that it is extremely unlikely that any court would rule that a university cannot have chaplains.
However, according to a report on Fox News in 2014, the FFRF succeeded in getting a Florida school district to replace chaplains with "life coaches."
Though such a fate seems unlikely for Louisiana State University, as lawyer and Louisiana State Rep. Mike Johnson has offered to defend LSU free of charge should the FFRF pursue legal action.
Johnson pointed out that, "student athletes should not have to surrender their fundamental right to the free exercise of religion, especially since so many of them are on the road frequently, on Sundays and other designated times for worship, and often working under stressful conditions."
The FFRF's 25-page report alleges that "the true purpose and actual effect of the chaplaincies is to promote the coach's personal religion and to convert athletes to that religion."
The atheist group also takes issue with the "extensive public financing of these chaplaincies," claiming in their report that "public universities are bankrolling" the chaplains, and pointing out that LSU's chaplain, Ken Ellis, "flew on planes chartered for the team 22 times between 2010 and 2013. He stayed with the team in a hotel 24 times during the same period."
Most of the schools threatened by the FFRF have yet to respond, but conservative Christian organizations like the ADF and the American Center for Law and Justice are sure to come to the schools' defense should the FFRF decide to litigate.