Group files complaint against Tigers

Updated: April 17, 2014, 4:20 PM ET
By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has lodged a letter of complaint to Clemson, charging coach Dabo Swinney and his staff with "unconstitutional behavior" at the public university.

Among the concerns outlined in the complaint by the FFRF, based on information obtained from an open records request:

• Swinney personally invited James Trapp to become team chaplain -- in violation of the Constitution and university guidelines on hiring chaplains -- and gave Trapp access to the entire team for Bible studies.

• Swinney schedules team devotionals.

• Swinney has organized transportation for coaches and players to "Church Days." 

University spokeswoman Cathy Sams issued a statement saying the school would evaluate the complaints raised but believes Swinney and his staff are not violating the separation of church and state guaranteed in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

"Participation in religious activities is purely voluntary, and there are no repercussions for students who decline to do so," the statement read. "We are not aware of any complaints from current or former student-athletes about feeling pressured or forced to participate in religious activities."

Swinney is not being made available to comment, but he has been outspoken in his religious views. In December, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Swinney tells recruits on visits, "I'm a Christian. If you have a problem with that, you don't have to be here."

In the same report, former safety Rashard Hall told the publication, "If you're there, you're going to know Jesus, you're going to know verses in the Bible -- it's weaved in the culture. There's a drawing-in towards Christianity."

Two years ago, then-Tigers receiver DeAndre Hopkins asked permission to be baptized in front of coaches and teammates in a cold tub after practice. The story went viral after assistant coach Jeff Scott tweeted a photo of Hopkins sitting in the tub.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., wants the school to direct Swinney and Trapp to immediately stop team prayers, sermons, Bible studies and "church days" for players, train staff about their First Amendment obligations, and monitor compliance.

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