Clemson vs. the ACLU over “Church Day”
As reported in the local paper, Clemson University (a state run school) is in “correspondence” with the ACLU over head football Coach Tommy Bowden’s annual “Church Day,” in which the team visits a church every year. The ACLU contends that Bowden was violating the separation of church and state by his actions, stating he had
abused his authority as Clemson University’s head football coach by imposing his strong personal religious beliefs upon student-athletes under his charge.
The University investigated and determined that the function would be allowed to continue, as it is on a voluntary basis.
Why should a military Christian care? The ACLU cited much the same “undue influence” of which military officers are accused when they interact with their subordinates on religious issues.
The ACLU has demonstrated that it would like to see leaders be unable to interact with their followers on anything regarding religion. While there are legitimate concerns that must be addressed in such relationships (for example, the voluntary nature of Bowden’s event), the ability to have interaction on religious topics is central to not only Constitutional free exercise but also voluntary spiritual development–not just of the leader, but also of the followers.
The ACLU wanted the event to cease; what would that have done to the players who wanted to participate? What about the spiritual development of Christian players who benefit from a mentor? Those who do not wish to participate are already free not to; they gain nothing by the event being prohibited. On the other hand, those who want to participate stand to lose much if the event is banned. Those who wish to participate must be allowed to do so.
In this case and others like it, the ACLU and similar organizations would like to deny people (both leaders and followers) who desire to participate the ability to do so. Whether in college football or the military, such denial of free exercise is unConstitutional and must be opposed.