The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which is asking for reform within the Auburn University Athletic Department and the firing of the school's chaplains, said officials with the foundation were first alerted about a Christian event at the university because of an article by 1819 News.
The purpose of the United Auburn event was to gather and worship. Football head coach Hugh Freeze, basketball head coach Bruce Pearl and baseball head coach Butch Thompson promoted the event on social media.
"I want to see this arena packed out, and I want you to bring your friends," Pearl said in a video ahead of Unite Auburn.
1819 News previewed the event in an online article that eventually made its way to the FFRF.
"We actually received a complaint from someone that linked to 1819 News," FFRF attorney Chris Line told 1819 News. "That article was a concern, but it was not as bad until we heard that the coaches were actually involved and then that one coach crossed the line by engaging in religious practice with a student by baptizing a player."
Line said no Auburn student has come forward with complaints to the FFRF, so there is no plan to file a lawsuit against the university at this time.
The FFRF mentioned Auburn University in other reports, such as the Pray to Play, in 2015. The report focused strictly on Christians and cited Auburn 41 times. One of those reports was about Auburn Chaplain Chette Williams, who has baptized dozens of students over the years.
"Today, the number of Auburn football players baptized by Williams could easily exceed 50, the report stated.
Although the event was not required for students or athletes to attend, Line said the FFRF got involved to ask for change.
"There is no problem with the coaches being religious," he added. "Coaches are totally free to practice their religion in their private capacity as individuals. It's just, they cannot use their position as coaches, their public university position to in any way promote religious events. They need to be neutral. In this case, baptizing a player makes it look as if the university is Christian or supports Christian."
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