Editorial about Coach Freeze’s tweets misunderstands the context

Published 9:36 am Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Oxford EAGLE may think it’s “extreme” that government employees are barred from promoting their personal religious beliefs while acting in their official capacities (“Ole Miss’ Freeze should keep on tweeting,” editorial, April 7), but that happens to be the law as established in the First Amendment of our Constitution. If Coach Hugh Freeze wants to continue tweeting his beliefs, he needs to separate that account from his official university position, and the University of Mississippi needs to stop posting those tweets on its website.

The EAGLE is also incorrect about there being “no reports that Ole Miss players have had religion forced upon them under Freeze.” A “Pray to Play” report that FFRF published in 2015 outlines some of the ways Freeze has forced his personal religion on his players, including maintaining a Christian chaplain on the coaching staff and selling team merchandise to raise money for the team chaplain.

The idea that players who don’t like Freeze’s approach can simply “sign and go somewhere else” is disingenuous when, as FFRF documented in our report, coaches at major university programs consistently highlight their evangelical Christian programming as a recruiting tool. The problem is so widespread that any minority religious or nonreligious football player who is considering college athletics often has to make a decision between compromising their personal beliefs and compromising their opportunities to play. The way to stop players being forced into such situations is for public institutions to strictly adhere to the constitutional separation of state and church. That is what we insist on at FFRF — and this includes asking Coach Freeze to stop misusing his official University of Mississippi Twitter account.

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Sam Grover is a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog organization with more than 27,000 members.