Losing my religion

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere

They say that when you talk to someone, always try to avoid two polarizing topics: politics and religion.

The two just elicit too many strong emotions and can turn a simple discussion into a heated argument that ends with flying fists and burnt bridges.

Maybe that's why the country has tried to stray away more and more from visible forms of organized religion.

In the past 20 years, we've seen nativity scenes being forced to be taken down, 10 Commandments being removed from court houses and the banning of prayer in public schools.

Well, if the Freedom From Religion Foundation has their way, we'll soon see prayer being banned from college football locker rooms as well.

Just recently, the FFRF charged Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney with "unconstitutional behavior" at a public university.

They have determined that Dabo hasn't exhibited enough separation of church and state with the practices of his program.

They don't like the fact that he invited James Trapp to be the team chaplain and that he scheduled team devotionals and organized transportation to take coaches and players to "church days."

In addition, Trapp was given access to the team for Bible studies.

Dabo was blind-sided by all of the outrage these team activities have caused within the FFRF.

"Anything that we have in our program from a spiritual standpoint is and always has been voluntary," Swinney said. "We're no different than any other program out there in how we operate as far as providing our players opportunities to grow in any aspect of their lives."

Dabo went on to say that he has recruited players from just about every faith and religion; he has even recruited non-religious young men. He has never had a problem with them, and he accepts players from all religious backgrounds.

Bottom line, he says that he is a proud Christian, but he has "never been a guy who's forced anything on anyone."

The FFRF can claim whatever they want, but I'm with Dabo on this one.

I think it's all a gross overreaction by a bunch of guys in suits that are not using common sense and looking to get some free publicity.

I'm all for toleration and respecting someone's religious beliefs or their choice to not believe in any form of religion, but Dabo isn't doing anything wrong here.

If he were forcing these grown men to pray, forcing them to read the Bible and forcing them to go to church, then I'd side with the FFRF.

If he was gathering his team and preaching to them for hours like one of those radical televangelist, then there would be a problem. If he was getting in touch with his inner Jim Jones and whipping up a fresh batch of Kool-Aid, then I'd be backing the FFRF 100 percent.

But he's not. He's merely offering a voluntary service to these men that they can choose to partake in and if not, they can give it the cold shoulder.

If they want to take a Bible, they can take one. If they want to go to a "church day," they can go. If they want to join teammates in a prayer, they can.

If they don't, no big deal. It's completely voluntary. Dabo isn't forcing them to do anything they don't want to do, nor is he forcing them to believe anything they don't want to believe.

He is a proud Christian man that enjoys praying and spiritually bonding with his Christian players. He is not on a mission to convert his non-Christian players into believers.

Ever since this story has broken, we haven't heard one former player come out and say Dabo tried to shove his religious ideals down their throat, nor have we heard the grumblings of any current players.

I think I can confidently say that you won't be alienated by the program if your belief system differs from the head coach.

You won't ride the bench just because you don't believe in the "Blessed Trinity." You won't drop to third in the depth chart just because you choose not to go to church with other teammates.

In fact, I very much doubt Dabo would have started these voluntary trips to church and voluntary Bible groups if their wasn't a demand for it within his team.

Not to start a holy war, but it's irresponsible not to acknowledge the elephant in the room. You have to look at the location of the school and the religious environment surrounding it.

When you consider that 76 percent of Americans are Christians and a booming 93 percent of South Carolina residents follow Christianity, it really doesn't seem so egregious that Dabo has allowed voluntary prayer and church services for his players.

It would be quite different if he was the head coach at BYU--where over 90 percent of students are Mormon, and Mormons account for 62 percent of the state's (Utah) population.

Sometimes I just wish people would use common sense and not fish for problems where there are none. I guess that's too much to ask for these days.