Atheist group demands Georgia universities get rid of sports chaplains

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An atheist group is targeting two Georgia schools with demands they abolish the position of sports chaplain.

The group wants UGA and Georgia Tech to replace the chaplains with "character coaches."

The group Freedom from Religion thinks chaplains promote Christianity over other faiths and use their positions to try and get converts.

Students Channel 2’s Richard Elliot spoke to at Georgia Tech say they don't mind chaplains, but think sports programs ought to consider different religions, too.

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“I think if the coaching has involved God or said a prayer before hand then I don't see a problem incorporating chaplains in,” said grad student Lindsey Larson.

Larson says she doesn't think having a chaplain say a prayer before a football game is a bad thing; though, she says all beliefs should be considered.

“If a lot of the team is like maybe agnostic or atheist then maybe you'd want to get their consent first before you do that,” said another student.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it doesn't like sports chaplains at all, calling them unconstitutional.

In a statement, the group told Tech that it “fails to properly protect your student athletes' rights of conscience and pose a high degree of risk of discrimination.”

Tech says it doesn't employee chaplains. The non-profit athletic association does.

“No funds from either the state of Georgia or Georgia Tech are used to compensate the consultant.  The athletic association is pleased with the services and support provided by its consultants,” the school said in a statement.

In a letter to UGA, it demands the school abolish the sports chaplain program even though technically, they are not school employees.

“Even if Fellowship of Christian Athletes or other private funds are primarily paying (the chaplains), that doesn't mitigate the unseemly entanglement. The university is granting (the chaplains) unique access and influence lending endorsement to his proselytizing.”

In a statement, the Georgia Baptist Convention condemned the letters saying, “Chaplains have always played an important role providing support, encouragement and guidance in all facets of life.”

At UGA, one student told Elliot she doesn’t think they are a bad thing.

“A lot of good morality comes from Christianity, regardless of whatever you believe in, God or the Bible or anything. It's really a community and it’s supportive,” said Shelly Crochet, a law student at UGA.

Another student, Rand Pope, thinks chaplains do advocate Christianity, but still doesn't think the school should stop the program.

“I think, in a sense, to the team, it does promote Christianity. Do I think it’s an issue? Maybe not unless people are being offended and bothered by it,” Pope said.

Elliot reached out to the local chapter of Freedom from Religion but they didn't return his phone calls.