Auburn Coaches Draw Legal Fire from Powerful Atheist Group Over Spontaneous Mass Baptism


Auburn University has been taken on a finger-wagging trip to the atheist woodshed after a Tuesday “Unite Auburn” event turned into a mass baptism.

The event began with a worship service but morphed into a mass baptism after one student wanted to be baptized, according to Fox News. What started out as a single baptism turned into about 200 students being baptized.

At one point, head football coach Hugh Freeze waded into the water to support one student being baptized, senior Michael Floyd said, according to WSFA-TV.

“I’ve seen Auburn basketball beat Kentucky, I’ve seen Auburn football beat Alabama, but I have never seen something like I did on Tuesday night,” Floyd said.

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation was less impressed and sent a sternly worded letter of reprimand targeting Freeze, head baseball coach Butch Thompson and head basketball coach Bruce Pearl, according to WVTM-TV.

The event was organized by Tonya Prewett and her husband Chad Prewett, who is the college’s assistant men’s basketball coach. FFRF staff attorney Chris Line said this crossed a major line.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he said.

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One way of showing Auburn gets the message would be to re-educate coaches on their “constitutional duties” while dumping some staff, the letter 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,” FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said, calling the incident an “abuse of power.”

Line conceded that no coercion was evident, according to the Washington Times.

“If we had a lot of evidence, we would not have written a letter. This would be a lawsuit,” he said.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey held as firmly as a defensive line in her social media reply.

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“As governor, I can assure you Alabama will never be intimidated by out-of-state interest groups dedicated to destroying our nation’s religious heritage,” she wrote.

Auburn was less confrontation in its public statement.

“The university received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation and is evaluating it. We have no further comment at this time,” the college statement said, according to WTVM.

Jeremy Dys, special counsel at First Liberty Institute, reminded the college that the rights of all the coaches and players involved need to be protected, according to the Washington Times.

“If Auburn requires any reminder, it is that the First Amendment doubly protects religion and warns against preferencing secular activity above religious. The First Amendment would be empty of all meaning if, as some seem to suggest, it required Auburn to purge religion from its campus or its employees,” he said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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