AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has once again set its sights on Auburn University’s football chaplain.
The group began looking into the chaplain position in 2014 then requested that the chaplain be fired in 2015. Following a video posted by AL.com, the group claimed it is “redoubling its efforts” to stop what it calls “unconstitutionally excessive piety" in Auburn University’s football program.
The video the group references shows Chaplain Chette Williams, a former Auburn linebacker, leading the team in a pregame prayer in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The team locked arm in arm circled around the interlocking university at the 50 yard line. The prayer has become a tradition. Players circle each week for the prayer. The video also shows players leading prayer following Williams.
In a three-page letter from the FFRF, representative Christian Line says “We’d like to remind AU that employing a chaplain and giving him unfettered access to a captive audience of football players is unconstitutional.”
The University claims that Williams is not a university employee despite the fact that he is listed on Auburn’s athletics staff directory and has a university phone number and email address. Investigating further, News Leader 9 searched university financial records and found that Auburn has never paid Williams in any capacity.
“I think it is important that we keep the chaplains there,” said Auburn University student, Kody Ehlers.
The letter from the FFRF says that several people reached out to the foundation with complaints after the AL.com video was posted. Students that spoke to News Leader 9 Wednesday had no problem with Williams' work.
“I don’t think you should force students to do what they don’t want to, but if they want to meet, I think they should have the right to do that,” said Auburn student, William Doherty.
In the letter to the university’s president, the group makes a number of requests under Alabama’s open records laws regarding Williams' access and communication with Auburn athletes and coaches. The group said they were previously denied those records in 2014.