University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt has come under fire from the atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). The group is demanding the coach stop pushing his Christian beliefs on players and that the university eliminate the team chaplain position.
The FFRF charges that Richt, along with chaplain Kevin “Chappy” Hynes (who is his brother-in-law), is “on a mission to win souls” for Christ.
The group reported that Coach Richt “fundraises for his brother-in-law’s chaplain position and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. At a gala event in the Butts-Mehre football complex in July of 2014, Richt helped bring in big money for the FCA.”
“We’re at a secular university, I understand that,” the coach responded to the accusation earlier this week. “I don’t try to make anyone believe a certain way at all. Anything that has to do with the spirit is strictly voluntary and never has any bearing on someone’s availability to play at Georgia. It’s always been that way.”
He went on to explain: “I think we’re made of our body, we’re made of our mind, we’re made of spirit. We work hard on our bodies as far as getting them in shape. We’re working on schemes, plays, lifting, running, nutrition, sleep. When we work on the mind, we care very much about them getting their degrees, tutoring, academic appointments, classes and all, meetings. All those things are mandatory.”
Richt noted that he would be ignoring a key component in his players’ development if he did not take into account their spirits. “I encourage our guys to grow spiritually, I believe our spirit is going to live beyond our body. I encourage them to grow spiritually but I don’t tell them what to believe in. Everything we do is strictly voluntary in that regard,” he reiterated.
Interestingly, Gen. George S. Patton made a similar observation to his unit’s chaplain during the height of World War II. Third Army Chaplain James O’Neill reported him saying: “A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. There is something in every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working—it’s his ‘guts.’ It is something that he has built in there: it is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself. Great living is not all output of thought and work. A man must have intake as well. I don’t know what you call it, but I call it Religion, Prayer, or God.”
As reported by Western Journalism, FFRF sent letters to multiple public universities demanding that they end their sports team chaplaincies or face possible legal action. Among them were Auburn, University of South Carolina, University of Missouri, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Clemson and the University of Georgia, AL.com reports.
The group is actively seeking plaintiffs to step forward among targeted schools in order to bring a lawsuit to challenge chaplain programs at public universities. To that end, the FFRF sent packets to players on several teams, including Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Wisconsin and Illinois.
How successful the FFRF would be if it were able to bring its suit is not clear. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of having taxpayer-funded chaplains for legislative bodies such as the U.S. Congress, and federal courts have done so for the military.
The Supreme Court has also recognized the right of students to voluntarily gather and pray at public school sporting events and during the school day, under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, though the court has ruled students cannot offer corporate prayers at sporting events over public address systems.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth