Am I the Only Person Perturbed by This?

Disturbing UM Sports news:

UM coach Mark Richt surprised his team with an unexpected gift in a meeting this week.

Richt gave every player a Bible, and the coach personalized it by putting the player’s name on the cover of the copy that player received.

Receiver Braxton Berrios said Richt told the players that reading it is “optional.”

“This speaks volumes to the type of coach we have,” Berrios said.

Faith is a big part of Richt’s life.

Asked in July how much he has used faith to create unity in the team, Richt said: “Yeah, well, everybody has a belief system. Everybody looks at life through a certain filter. I happen to be a Christian. That’s just what I am. I’m not using it. I think we need to be true to who we are, what we believe.

“I’m not trying to make anybody believe anything I believe. I just want to do things in a way that I think God would be pleased with me. That’s my goal on a daily basis.

“In doing that, I know if I do that, I’m blessing the players I’m in charge of. We’ll be doing things right in recruiting. We’ll be working our tails off.

“So I don’t think much about it. I’m not trying to use anything. I’m just trying to be who I am.”

(via the Miami Hearld)

The University of Miami is a secular institution.  But the coercive aspect of this is obvious, and improper, whatever disclaimers accompany it.

Some students were vocal in their appreciation; where does that leave the others?

If I gave out religious tracts  (that had nothing to do with the course) as optional reading in my class, I would be justly criticized. How is this different? I think UM President Julio Frenk ought to say something about this, but I am not holding my breath.  Especially given we beat Georgia State Tech …

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9 Responses to Am I the Only Person Perturbed by This?

  1. Richard Campbell says:

    The University of Miami is not scheduled to play Georgia State University (or the University of Georgia) in football this year.

    The University of Miami did just beat the Georgia Institute of Technology, though.

  2. Mrs.Mag says:

    This is totally unacceptable! Some team players may be appreciative, but others may be insulted at best or perhaps intimidated or even violated! This coach’s religious beliefs should guide him and determine how he chooses to live, pray and worship. It has no place in his work place unless his job description includes teaching Christian and/or biblical doctrine. He has no business in referencing the bible, never mind passing them out! This appears not only to be a blatant violation of church & state, but sounds unconstitutional as it infringes on the religious freedom of players who may not share his faith. At the very lleast, he should be reprimanded and be made to make a public acknowledgment of the inappropriateness of his action – no matter how unintentional it may have been. If the University fails to press for action, then it should be addressed at a higher level, even perhaps at the Justice Dept.!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Michael says:

      Hmmm. I think you may have been misled by our University’s name. The University of Miami is not, as one might think from the name, a public institution. It is private. Thus, it is not illegal for it to do religious activism in the way that it would be illegal in, say, a state University.

      However, being a non-religious University, UM like most of its peers tends to hold itself (and I would argue should just about always hold itself) to the same standards of religious neutrality as a public institution. But when a violation occurs, it’s an internal (or moral) matter, not a legal one. Thus there is no role for the Justice Department here.

  3. Skeptical says:

    I wonder what the reaction would have been if they had been copies of the Holy Quran.

  4. Cognitive Dissonance says:

    I don’t think this is a big deal AT ALL. If I am a player in the team and I happen to believe in something else other than Christ (or in nothing at all), I would just put that Bible some place I don’t have to look at (or just quietly throw it away if I can’t stand it), and that would be the end of it. The coach seems to be doing this with good intentions and, most importantly, with integrity.
    By the way, dear Skeptical, if I was handed a copy of the Quran I would probably keep it in my personal library and read it from time to time. I would certainly NOT take offense for it or make a big deal out of it, because IT IS NOT.
    Why should anyone take offense? I just don’t get this about liberals, I really don’t. Everybody is up in arms about someone handing out Bibles to his football team. Really? Don’t we have bigger issues to worry about?
    Just my very respectful two cents on the subject. I hope no one got offended by my comments.

    • Michael says:

      I think you’re missing at least part of the point: a young player’s career depends on the coach, both for support and crucially playing time. Actions like this make it all too likely that – whether or not this is what the Coach intends – students will be intimidated into ‘going along’ in shows of religiosity. We have, and should have, a tradition that people should not be coerced in religious display, affirmation, or participation. It also depends on support from teammates. And there is great pressure to be ‘part of the team’.

      It’s fine for adults commenting on a blog to say that the situation does not seem to them coercive; it might well look quite different in the locker room. Again, intentions don’t matter (much – I guess bad ones could make it worse); what matters is that it creates a situation in which both coach and peer pressure is being harnessed to attempt to either proselytize or make members of minority religions, or none, uncomfortable. And all that is Just Plain Wrong in a university-sponsored activity like football.

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