Deion Sanders, head coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes, found himself under fire after an atheist organization called him out for sharing religious practices with players, according to a letter.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the University of Colorado, claiming that the team could be violating the Constitution through engaging in religious exercises lead by coaches. The FFRF pointed to two instances where this allegedly happened: a staff member leading other staff members in prayer and Coach Sanders instructing another staff member to initiate a prayer for the players. According to the letter, the latter accusation is more serious. (RELATED: Tucker Carlson Calls Out ‘Professional Christians’ Who Don’t Speak Up For Religious Freedom)
The organization claims that a staff member lead the players in prayer after being directed by Sanders. The prayer allegedly read, “Lord, we thank You for this day, Father, for this opportunity as a group. Father, we thank You for the movement that God has put us in place to be in charge of. We thank You for each player here, each coach, each family. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen,” according to the letter.
The letter stated that the “coercive” nature of staff-lead prayer could lead players to feel as if they needed to participate in order to remain in good-standing with their superiors.
If it’s between kneeling in protest or kneeling in prayer, I’m choosing prayer every time. America needs more God and less government. Keep the faith, and keep on praying, @DeionSanders. pic.twitter.com/Hutew392GB
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) March 2, 2023
“Players trying to please their coach surely will feel immense pressure to participate in religious activities and go along with Coach Sanders’ proselytizing,” the letter states.
“The University of Colorado must take action to protect its student athletes and to ensure that Sanders understands that he has been hired as a football coach and not a pastor,” the letter continues. “We request that Sanders be educated as to his constitutional duties under the Establishment Clause.”
The university responded to the FFRF, stating that Coach Sanders had undergone training with the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance and that he was “very receptive,” and that he, “came away from it with a better understanding of the University of Colorado’s policies and the requirements of the Establishment Clause.”
The First Liberty Institute, an organization that defends religious liberty, rebuffed the criticisms of the FFRF, and warned the school against censoring Sanders. It stated that the coach, “does not lose his constitutional right to free exercise of religion simply because he is an employee at CU,” according to the Washington Examiner. The organization cited the Supreme Court case Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District, a case in which the court concluded that the First Amendment protects prayer on school grounds and that government entities are not permitted to punish an individual for doing so.