Last month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a damning report highlighting public universities who had chaplains for their football teams. In cases where the chaplains were paid, it meant tuition money and taxpayer funding were being directed at people who were there for no other reason than to promote Christianity. (In addition to player access, some chaplains also received free tickets to games and a personal office.)
Now, Alabama State Rep. Craig Ford has put forth a bill, HB 33, that would make it legal to hire chaplains at public schools in the state. (It’s named after the chaplain at Auburn University.)
This bill would establish the Reverend Chette Williams Act to specifically authorize public two-year and four-year institutions of higher education to employ chaplains
The bill really doesn’t say much more than that. Bear in mind that even though the bill doesn’t say “Christian” anywhere, that’s the implication.
Besides being government-sponsored endorsement of religion, it’s also completely unnecessary. Look at how ignorant Ford is in an essay he wrote for the Alabama Political Reporter:
I respect everyone’s right to practice their faith, regardless of what their faith may be. I served 14 years in the military, in part, to defend that right. But there’s a difference between respecting the freedom of religion and excluding religion.
Students are always free to choose not to participate in religious activities. But those kids who do want that religious guidance from someone who is there everyday and knows what he or she is going through should have access to a chaplain.
I sincerely believe in the freedom of religion. But removing chaplains isn’t protecting students from being pressured to participate in religious activities; it’s denying students access to a mentor.
Ford seems to think that if taxpayers aren’t paying for easy access to a Christian leader, students won’t be able to find one anywhere else. That’s bullshit. Students can always go to church. They can always call a spiritual leader. They always have access to Christian mentors.
What they don’t need — and what they shouldn’t have — is the government’s help in the matter. Ford wants to give Christians a perk that Muslim and atheist and Hindu and Jewish students won’t have. That’s why this bill need to die in committee. It doesn’t even deserve a vote.
FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel adds:
Instead of protecting students — the vulnerable population — Rep. Ford is seeking to let those with power impose their personal religion on that vulnerable population. He is seeking to give proselytizing at a state university a state sanction. Fortunately, no state law can trump state or federal constitutions. This bill does nothing to protect the Alabama or U.S. Constitution, universities, or students — it only gives misinformed coaches the impression that they can legally force religion onto their players. They can’t.
So far, the House committee on Education Policy hasn’t taken any action on the bill. When they do, let’s hope they just dismiss it.
(Original image via Shutterstock)