If you don’t follow college football and/or atheist political issues, you may not know about the FFRF and their dispute with the Clemson Football program (The FFRF itself doesn’t seem to have their own version posted). It is the FFRF’s claim that the fact that the football program makes religious services available (A chaplain on staff, church services, bible study, etc.,) is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state, given that Clemson is a state-funded school.
Actually, the FFRF’s position is difficult to fathom, as it contradicts itself. Firstly, it states that no athlete has been the target of discrimination or any form of coercion. They continue that there doesn’t need to be any coercion. Then they say that Clemson’s policies lead to coercion.
“What we are expecting to accomplish is to stop the proselytizing and the religious devotion that seems to be interwoven into Clemson’s football program,” Gaylor said earlier Thursday. “This is a public university, so it shouldn’t be entangling religion and government and coercing players to pray, go to Bible study, go to church and making it seem as though they are a Baptist university instead of a public university.”
Despite former players saying that participation in such activities is strictly voluntary, Gaylor said the only thing that matters is that the football program is providing a channel for players and coaches to participate in Christian activities.
“It doesn’t matter if they are mandatory,” Gaylor said. “They should not be conducted at all at a secular university and a secular football program. It isn’t coercion that we are claiming and coercion is not a test that we have to meet to show that the Constitution is being violated. Every court that you go to will agree with us. They are establishing religion. There is a climate of Christianity and piety as if to be a player you have to go to church, you have to pray, you have to go to Bible study, and you have to meet with a chaplain and on and on and on.”
They conceed that the religious services aren’t mandatory, that coercion is not a fact they have to prove, but “..and coercing players to pray” is a direct contradiction. Is this complaint about coercion, or is it not?
Let’s say that this is not a fishing expedition by the FFRF to see if they can get student athletes to come forward with complaints, something that no athlete has yet done, and that they don’t have to prove discrimination. What then is their case? Is it the waste of taxpayer money? How much taxpayer money would be wasted bringing a bogus case to court, from which the only end result would be changing the name of a “prayer breakfast” to just “breakfast” … where they still pray?
In their zeal to mimic the very thing they’re against, and to take away the very thing they claim to fight for, they’ve forgotten a few things. Clemson is in a predominately Christian, predominately Protestant region of the country. Most of the players will frankly be believers, and actually want these services available to them. If you take them away, what you’ll then have is a group of pissed off people with a chip on their shoulder, feeling persecuted for their religion… mostly because they are being persecuted for their religion.
A non-believer might say that these players and coaches only believe what they do because of indoctrination. The FFRF is trying to put an end to this, and so it’s one more step forward. Also, think of the Constitution. Ok, let’s think about the Constitution. The Constitution makes no mention of a state-endorsed religion in its main body, in order to give people the freedom to choose for themselves. As for indoctrination, these are not children, these are grown men, and they can well decide for themselves what they believe. If and when they choose to look beyond their current beliefs, is completely up to the individual.
It has nothing to do with America being a Christian nation, which it isn’t (This is so easy to look up for yourself, I don’t really think I need to go into it, do I?), or how atheism is just another religion, which it isn’t. It’s not about taxpayer money being wasted, because the cost of what they’re doing doesn’t amount to a drop of water in the ocean, comparitively speaking.
Forcing your views on others seems so strange, coming from a secular point-of-view. All atheism is, is a rejection of the theistic claim. It makes no claims of knowledge, and it certainly isn’t a worldview. It states what you don’t believe, not what you do. There’s nothing to fear here for believers, or there shouldn’t be. I am a nonbeliever, and consider myself a free thinker, a skeptic, and a humanist. Whether or not I’m labeled as an atheist doesn’t matter. If your definition is that an atheist is someone who hates God, or otherwise makes trouble, then that isn’t me. If you’re someone who says that any nonbeliever, agnostic type is by definition an atheist, then that’s fine too. I’m too busy leading my life to worry about what I don’t believe. My skin isn’t so thin that I feel threatened by how others choose to live, unless the intent is to do harm.
Christopher Hitchens once said of theists that they were welcome to play with their own toys in their own house, as long as they didn’t force others to play with their toys as well. There’s a fair number of theists who’d agree with that. What is the FFRF doing here then, but forcing others to play with their toys?
If a single student comes forward, if there is a shred of evidence that there’s politics of the pulpit going on, that your standing on the team depends on the church you attend, or other such insanity, I’ll change my mind. But as it stands now, preventing others to think freely just because you don’t like what it is they’re thinking, is an atheism fail.