A well-known anti-religious group is calling for the termination of the Auburn University staff members involved in the recent mass student baptisms at the "Unite Auburn" event.
Nearly 200 students were baptized that night, which prompted the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to write to the University asking it to ensure coaches are coaching and not preaching.
"The abuse of power displayed by these coaches shows that Auburn hasn't changed one bit since we published our 2015 report," FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said. "As coaches, their responsibility lies in guidance on the field, not guiding these students to pews. They should start by firing the team chaplains, whose very presence signals that Auburn University has an inappropriate relationship with Christian evangelists."
Several coaches gathered at Auburn for a Unite Auburn event on September 12. The powerful Christ-focus night included participation from head football coach Hugh Freeze, basketball coach Bruce Pearl and baseball coach Butch Thompson.
1819 News reported that evening that a massive crowd moved from the event inside the Neville Arena to the Red Barn to watch the baptisms.
The FFRF said Freeze baptized a player, and the group has since tried to find out details about who put the event together. They said the university should start by firing the team chaplains.
"The event was organized by Chad Prewett, Auburn's assistant men's basketball coach, and his wife Tonya," the FFRF said. "Jeremy Napier, chaplain for the Auburn men's basketball team, was involved in planning the event and admitted that he personally baptized more than 20 students."
The FFRF said university-sponsored religious activity is a violation of the Constitution. In a letter to Auburn president Christopher B. Roberts, FFRF pointed out several religious events held at Auburn over the past several years and asked for change.
"Auburn University is a public university, not a religious one. It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for university employees to use their university position to organize, promote or participate in a religious worship event," the letter stated. "These ongoing and repeated constitutional violations at the university create a coercive environment that excludes those students who don't subscribe to the Christian views being pushed onto players by their coaches."
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) and others have since defended Auburn and the baptisms.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation should remember that the U.S. Constitution protects religious expression for everyone, regardless of who their employer might be. This event should be praised, not criticized. https://t.co/jkzCN5V86D— Robert Aderholt (@Robert_Aderholt) September 22, 2023
"The Freedom From Religion Foundation should remember that the U.S. Constitution protects religious expression for everyone, regardless of who their employer might be," Aderholt said on X. "This event should be praised, not criticized."
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