Ames, IA

AU received a complaint that Iowa State University was considering a proposal to hire a full-time chaplain for its football team. According to news reports, the university’s football coach, who authored the proposal, told the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that he was motivated by his own relationship with Christ. AU wrote a letter urging the university president to reject the religiously motivated proposal, and explaining that courts have upheld government-provided chaplains only in cases where it was necessary to accommodate the Free Exercise rights of those who would otherwise lack access to religious services, such as certain military personnel and prisoners. The university president acknowledged AU’s letter and rejected the original chaplaincy proposal, instead approving the appointment of a life-skills mentor for football players. The mentoring program will be closely monitored by the university to ensure that player participation in the program is voluntary and that no religious viewpoints are promoted.