Holy war erupts when basketball coach dares to voice Christian faith

 April 16, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A coalition whose goal includes censoring select Christians who make reference to their personal faith has demanded that the University of South Carolina censor its women's basketball coach.

But officials with the Rutherford Institute have volunteered to help defend the school from the attack by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The fight is over comments by Dawn Staley, the coach of the Gamecocks, which came after the team defeated Oregon State last month to advance to the NCAA's Final Four. The team later won the title.

Staley was interviewed, and was asked, "Since the last two games have been close and tough,…what’s impressed you about this [team]?"

She praised the players' resilience and added, "I'm giving all the glory to God, though. …The devastating loss that we had last year, to put us back here with a totally different team—if you don’t believe in God, something’s wrong with you, seriously. I’m a believer. I’m a believer because He makes things come true. When you’re at your worst, He’s at His best."

Within hours, the FFRF had ordered the school to "take action to protect its student-athletes and to ensure that Staley understands that she has been hired as a basketball coach and not a pastor."

It also issued a demand that Staley "be educated as to her constitutional duties under the Establishment Clause."

The protest group also complained that Staley had posted Bible verses on her own social media accounts and was involved in devotionals.

Rutherford now has advised the school that, "To prohibit Coach Staley from making any reference to biblical passages as a source of motivation and team building, while allowing her to make references to secular writers and stories, would be discriminatory and 'may evidence hostility to religion…,'" the letter said.

"Coach Staley is tasked with motivating her players as a team to win. After winning the NCAA championship this year, freshman Tessa Johnson credited the team's success with the environment Staley helped create: 'We're unselfish people and that's how we win it,'" the letter said.

"Indeed, the Bible contains many passages that call for people to be unselfish and work as a team: 'Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others;' 'the body is one and has many members,…[i]f one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together;' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

The letter to South Carolina chief Michael Amiridis explained that while the Constitution says the government "may not establish or compel a particular religion, it also may not silence and suppress religious speech merely because others take offense."

It continued, "People are free to ignore, disagree with, or counter the religious speech of others, but they cannot compel the government to censor such speech."

So, the letter said, the FFRF "has the right to complain about the actions of the university's women's basketball coach Dawn Staley, but it does not have the right to compel the University of South Carolina to suppress the religious speech and expression made by Coach Staley as a private citizen."

It notes the Supreme Court previously has ruled: "Learning how to tolerate speech or prayer of all kinds is part of learning how to live in a pluralistic society." The court further has affirmed that while public officials and employees "can act on behalf of the state, they are also private citizens with their own constitutional rights."

"While the government may not establish or compel a particular religion, it also may not silence and suppress religious speech merely because others take offense," said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.

Latest News

© 2024 - Patriot News Alerts