Football and Christian Politics in the South

Aug 19, 2014

By David Niose


The American Humanist Association sent a letter to a school district in Hall County, Georgia, this week, warning that the high school football program was unconstitutionally injecting religion into its activities. As church-state disputes go, this one was not exactly a close call: the coaches were praying with students, even sometimes leading the prayers, and constantly promoting Christianity by placing Bible verses on all sorts of documents and other materials.

As AHA’s legal director, even in fairly routine matters such as this I’m usually prepared for some backlash. There are always a few who will insist that our request for government religious neutrality is somehow an “attack on Christianity,” which of course it’s not.

It’s always nice, therefore, when the response from the school in question is calm and respectful, not overly defensive or emotional. And in this case, the Hall County school officials gave us just such a signal initially, as they sent us an immediate reply saying they would investigate the claims and get back to us.

Outside the official school channels, however, the response was not so encouraging. In fact, in some instances the responses were more akin to what you’d get if you were fundraising for the Obama campaign at a KKK meeting: Commenters expressed outrage, hostility, and even threats, many of which would be unfit for publication.

8 comments on “Football and Christian Politics in the South

  • From the continued article:
    hopefully someday there will be a general consensus that Collin’s vitriol is similarly archaic.

    Naturally Chaplain Collins swooped in as caped crusader – he smells future votes, and strikes one for the ‘christian team’, a 2-fer. Large ego would forbid otherwise.

    As far as atheists being acknowledged, then accepted as part of the norm, I think the trouble is there’s nothing tangible for the general populace to sink their teeth into, thus being able to form a more reasoned opinion.

    The proof of the pudding is in the tasting.

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  • I have some insight here- for a change. I lived in South Carolina for about 35 of my 67 years.

    If you could devise a properly worded survey question, you’d find the worship of football in the Southeast trails religion by the narrowest of margins. Secularists going after both at the same time will be met with epic vitriol.

    My college team of choice is Clemson which plays “big boy” football though its enrolment is small compared to the Ohio States of the world. But it recruits the talent-rich southeastern high school ranks and the faith of the head coach and his staff is a real draw.

    For such things as baptising a star player on the field of play, the FFR (Freedom From Religion) group did some saber-rattling about a law suit and all hell broke loose on the football message boards. Half was the vitriol but the other half was “Best publicity we ever got!”

    That last half was likely right. Clemson’s current recruiting class (though it’s not over yet and due in part to scholarship limitations they won’t stay there) is ranked 2nd in the country behind only Alabama. The bulk of those on-board to enrol next year gave their pledges after the FFR attack.

    You might hit one or the other but going after football and religion would Don Quixote armed with a nuke.

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  • I believe religion is leading America to a “great decline” in culture, education and economics. Religious fundamentalism is influencing US policy in ways unimaginable 200 years ago. Science education has been beleaguered by creationists and their bible-based agenda, leading to a sharp increase in scientific illiteracy and poor academic showing globally. Political discourse is polarized by “wedge issues” largely driven by fundamental Christian belief.

    In my view these are not good times to be an American. If you are one of the few rational Americans out there you should be very, very concerned about the influence religion is having on your country. I wonder what it will be like when Islam starts to grow in popularity in America.

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  • I live near this county and they do the same thing. I have two children, but honestly I am afraid complaining would just make them be ostracized and treated different by their coaches, peers, teachers, etc.

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