Atheist advocacy group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has found their latest victim at Auburn University. According to The Christian Post, the FFRF is demanding Auburn University ban coaches from participating in faith-based events on campus, citing a First Amendment violation. The event targeted for the alleged violation was “Unite Auburn” which was held on September 12. The FFRF is upset that Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl and Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson participated in the event.
In a letter written to Auburn President Christopher Roberts, FFRF attorney Christopher Line called out the university for “ongoing constitutional violations occurring” in their sports programs. Line said that the “religious worship service” was an attempt to “unite the Christian community of Auburn under one roof to worship God.” A video by head baseball coach Butch Thompson was also referenced in Line’s letter in which he urged students to attend to “come together and lift the name of Jesus.” Line also referenced Coach Hugh Freeze who he said participated in a baptism event where he baptized one of his players.
Line accused Auburn University, a public institution, of violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by showing “favoritism” towards a certain religion. In the letter, Line required a full disclosure of communications and records relating to the “Unite Auburn” event.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, who also serves as the director of the nonprofit legal organization’s Academic Freedom Center explained why Line’s accusations are unfounded. In a statement to Fox News, Langhofer said, “Freedom From Religion Foundation’s twisted interpretation of the First Amendment has the potential to crush both students’ and their coaches’ essential right to live out their faith […] Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas and have an obligation to protect and promote free speech and free exercise of religion.”
Langhofer also referenced the recent Coach Kennedy case in which the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of religious coaches and students to “engage in religious activities on campus in their private capacity.” Langhofer argued that the FFRF’s demands will also be found to be unconstitutional.