Clemson’s Dabo Swinney won’t turn away non-Christian players


(Associated Press)

Earlier this month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint with Clemson University, alleging that football Coach Dabo Swinney and the public school were violating the U.S. Constitution by creating “a culture of religious coercion within the university’s football program.”

On Wednesday, Swinney responded by saying players of all faiths are welcome. Per ESPN:

“I have recruited and coached players of many different faiths,” Swinney said in the statement. “Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character.

“Recruiting is very personal. Recruits and their families want — and deserve — to know who you are as a person, not just what kind of coach you are. I try to be a good example to others, and I work hard to live my life according to my faith.”

The FFRF, a church-state watchdog group based in Madison, Wis., alleged a number of improprieties in a letter sent to Clemson on April 10. Among them:

  • In 2011, Swinney invited James Trapp to become the team’s chaplain, a violation of school guidelines that say only students can select team chaplains, who are then approved by coaches.
  • Trapp was given access to the team between drills, creating a “preference for religion over nonreligion,” alienating “those players who don’t believe as he does” and creating “a culture of religious coercion within the university’s football program.”
  • That Trapp has an office at the team’s facility, a violation of laws that prohibit publicly paid employees from using state resources to proselytize.
  • That the entire team attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast on Dec. 31, 2011, and that the team was bussed on multiple other occasions for a “Church Day.”
“FFRF wants the school to direct Swinney and Trapp to immediately stop team prayers, sermons, bible studies and ‘church days’ for players and train staff about their First Amendment obligations and monitor compliance,” the FFRF said in a statement.
In response, Clemson said it did not believe Swinney was violating the Constitution but would evaluate his practices.
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