Atheist Professors and Creationist Coaches

For a week or more we’ve been ignoring news stories about allegedly creationist chaplains employed by universities who were preaching to their football teams. For some background, you can read Group wants USC to eliminate its football chaplain.

We originally decided that this wasn’t our kind of news, but today it’s starting to look different. Look what we found at the website of the Christian Post, which describes itself as “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website”: If Colleges Allow Atheist Professors They Can Allow College Football Christian Chaplains, ACLJ Argues.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! What a crazy headline! Who is ACLJ? Be patient, dear reader, all will be revealed. The Christian Post says, with bold font added by us:

The American Center for Law and Justice has sent out a legal letter supported by 81,500 Americans defending football team chaplains from the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s claims that they’re imposing their Christian beliefs on players. The ACLJ argued that if atheist professors are not considered to be posing an issue to students’ rights, neither should sports chaplains.

That’s the name of the ACLJ, but who are they? Wikipedia has an article on them, which says:

The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) is a politically conservative, Christian-based social activism organization in the United States. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and associated with Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The ACLJ was founded in 1990 by law school graduate and evangelical minister Pat Robertson.

Okay, now we know what we’re dealing with. Let’s read on, as the Christian Post quotes from the ACLJ’s letter:

The Establishment Clause does not compel the expulsion of sports team chaplains who serve voluntarily to meet the spiritual needs of student athletes, any more than the Establishment Clause requires the razing of university chapels that exist to meet similar needs.

Interesting way to phrase the issue. We continue:

FFRF [the Freedom From Religion Foundation] has sent out letters of its own to more than 25 public universities, warning them that chaplains do not have the right to impose religion on players. “Only 54 percent of college-aged Americans are Christian and many of the teams investigated have non-Christian players, but 100 percent of the chaplains investigated are promoting Christianity, usually with an Evangelical bent. These chaplains preach religious doctrine, including apparently Creationism, to the athletes,” FFRF said in its statement.

It’s a real battle for the hearts and minds of the athletes! Here’s more from the FFRF letter:

“Chaplains regularly lead the teams in prayer, conduct chapel services, and more. These religious activities are not voluntary, as the universities claim, because, as the report notes, ‘student athletes are uniquely susceptible to coercion from coaches,'” the atheist group added.

But it doesn’t stop there:

FFRF has said that Christian coaches and chaplains are “converting football fields into mission fields,” and called on universities to adopt policies that would address this problem.

Oooooooooooh — those coaches are converting football fields into mission fields! On the other hand:

The ACLJ has accused FFRF of making “outrageous claims,” and said that it is hoping its letter will “set the record straight.”

Yeah! Those universities have atheist professors, so what’s wrong with the jocks having creationist coaches?

Well, dear reader, that’s the news. This is shaping up to be a major controversy. How will it end? Stay tuned to this blog!

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8 responses to “Atheist Professors and Creationist Coaches

  1. For those not up-to-date on the close ties between Christianity and Football, you may want to read this article about Houston Texan running back Arian Foster.

  2. This brings up the issue of imposing arbitrary rules of sports. In golf and track, the lowest score wins, while in basketball and football, the highest score wins. Let the kids be told about alternative rules and be given the choice.
    Let them hear about the option that Calvin Ball offers.

  3. Jay Sekulow heads the ACLJ. I think he used to be on talk radio and I think he was associated with the likes of Pat Robertson, et. al, the right wing media preachers one and all. He’s made a name for himself and I think he’s argued at the SCOTUS. Of course he’s a right-wing lawyer, but he practices law, unlike Luskin. And of course he speedily comes to the defense of “christians” who are being “persecuted.” He’s also been accused of establishing himself in a life of luxury, like all these top echelon right-wing fundies do, and always seems to have evaded the tax man in the process.

  4. Because Kitzmiller v Dover showed ID was nothing more than creationism in a push-up bra…..

    As a former teacher who collected memorable and vivid illustrations and analogies, I salute you for bringing to our attention yet another one. Within a matter of seconds, it brought to mind several more—all of which, unfortunately, would risk the boundaries of propriety for which this family-friendly blog is famous. So I defer to the august solemnity of the S.C. (interesting be he.)

    Speaking of illustrations, analogies, and the mnemonics which keep them around, I should elaborate slightly on the BARASHIT title of the Book of Genesis, based upon the first word of that Hebrew text (usually translated “In the beginning…”) My favorite rabbi professor chose to teach Old Testament Hebrew as if it were pronounced like modern Hebrew. So I’m still in the habit of spelling that first word as BARASHIT, while those who learned their Hebrew at an evangelical seminary probably pronounced and spelled it as BARASHITH. That “aspirated dental” (as it is called) and the absence thereof often arises in regional dialects as something which thereby tends to identify where someone is from.

    So I might as well tell the story which every comparative linguist and wannabe Biblical scholar must know: the SHIBBOLETH story. This little fun-fact to-know-and-tell will probably already be familiar to most readers. But perhaps some younger readers may appreciate being able to dazzle their friends and families with this vocabulary power-builder, an ancient password which could make the difference between life and death.

    The Gileadites had given the tribe of Ephraim a severe beating and were determined to kill any surviving Ephraimites who would be trying to cross the Jordan River on their way back to their home territory. But even the bloodthirsty ancients sometimes went to the extra effort of sparing the innocent. After all, they didn’t want to kill some innocent traveler who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. So, the Gileadites told each person headed towards Ephraim territory to simply say the word “SHIBBOLETH”. That made a good “password” because the Ephraimites spoke a dialect of Hebrew that was missing the “sh” phoneme, so they were not accustomed to saying SHIBBOLETH—but would instead say SIBBOLETH. (This would be similar to an English speaker saying the word “show” and some toddlers still working on the proper pronunciation will say what sounds like “so”.) Every Ephraimite who spoke the beginning of SHIBBOLETH with a “s” sound instead of a “sh” sound was promptly “corrected” by means of a sword, across the carotid artery, most likely.

    So, to this day, a shibboleth has tended to refer to something minor or subtle which identifies and distinguishes the “in group” from the “out group”. (The original meaning of the Hebrew word “shibboleth” was the sheath or pod that surrounded the grain on a plant. But this is a case where the connotation rather than the denotation made its way to another language.)

    I see that the S.C.’s next blog wishes everyone a Merry KITZMAS, and for our own little “in group”, the word KITZMAS that is so familiar to us might well baffle an outsider—who might even mispronounce it open a first hearing. So, the mention of KITZMAS might serve as a sort of shibboleth for this elite group of insiders as we condescendingly look down upon those YECists who similarly look down upon us. (What I find particular interesting and often humorous is when some of those YECs think that they know of a shibboleth by which they can test me to demonstrate that I am NOT a “genuine, TRUE Christian” (TM). Needless to say, they tend to choose their shibboleths poorly.)

    So if the meaning of the word SHIBBOLETH is new to you, then you now have yet another fun fact to know and tell. Free of charge, as always.

  5. One might also explain the difficulties of rendering the opening words of the Hebrew Bible into English.
    Even without knowing a word of Hebrew, one might wonder about “beginning” – beginning of what? And, indeed, the grammar of the Hebrew does specify beginning of.

  6. TomS asked an excellent question:
    Even without knowing a word of Hebrew, one might wonder about “beginning” – beginning of what?

    Yes! (Or maybe even “Amen!”) There’s a kind of “cultural narcissism” which infects so many Bible readers, especially the YECists, when they assume that many key scriptures of the Bible were written (1) to address the questions deemed most important in our own “modern times”, or, at the very least, most every passage of the Bible just might have been written (2) with the dual objectives of addressing its ancient audience but also providing “special inside information” for modern readers at the same time. (Example, the haunting words of warning concerning “science falsely so called” surely was an anti-evolution lament from the Apostle Paul! Paul prophetically looked to the future and gave us a helping hand!)

    This “it’s all about me/us” attitude towards the Bible allows evolution-deniers to find lots of “obvious prooftexts” from the scriptures which have been waiting thousands of years so that the God’s favorite Gentiles, the “creation science” Christians, would have incredibly convenient clubs ready and waiting to be hit over the heads of atheists and “compromising Christians” who dare affirm The Theory of Evolution and billions of years! So, when those big, bad, evolution-affirming “Christians” tell you that “science falsely so called” was addressing a particular first-century cult called Gnosticism—which many have translated from the Greek word GNOSIS to the Latin word SCIENTIA, “knowledge”—don’t allow them to spoil your all-too-perfect equivocation fallacy which confuses an ancient Latin word like SCIENTIA for a completely different, modern-day field of science known as evolutionary biology. (Yes, those killjoys have a very annoying habit of explaining and eviscerating perfectly good anti-evolution propaganda by demanding truth and legitimate evidence!

    Thus, Young Earth Creationists consider it obvious that “in the beginning” refers to “the beginning of the universe”. The fact that “the heavens and earth” (or I prefer “the sky and the land”) was an ancient idiom which we would replace with “the universe” in modern Bible paraphrases (despite the risks of anachronistic thinking imposed from our modern notions of the universe as opposed to those of the original authors) might initially seem to make that question all the more settled. Yet, there are many clues which would remind us that “in the beginning” was the title of the first scroll of the Five Scrolls [Penta+teuch=Pentateuch] Torah Covenant and the carefully chosen words were Jesus’ way to take his audience back to God’s written covenantal history with his chosen people, the Children of Israel. That Torah Covenant history included not only a history of all of God’s previous covenants (contracts) with his people, but also details of the marriage covenant he ordained between husband and wife.

  7. Addendum for TomS:

    {This continuation from my previous answer for you is a very rough draft of an excerpt from an article being prepared for publication in a future BSF blog at }

    Let’s answer “In the beginning of what?” with several key thoughts in mind:

    (1) The first five books of the Old Covenant (aka Old Testament aka Old Contract) is called the Torah (The Law) or the Pentateuch (The Five Scrolls.) So what we call the Book of Genesis (beginnings), they called BARASHIT/BARASHITH because that was the first word of that first book/scroll. So I believe that the ancient Hebrews would have answered the question of “The beginning of what?” with “The beginning of the Torah Covenant”, because the Torah was the founding document, the Constitution of the Children of Israel, the suzerainty treaty which detailed all of the contractual provisions of Israel’s reciprocal agreement with YHWH ELOHIM. As one would expect of such a treaty between a sovereign and the vassals promising their allegiance and obedience while enjoying the King of Kings protections and blessings, the history of their relationship and all of the relevant background history would serve as a reminder, even to generations yet unborn, that the B’NAI BRITH (Sons of the Covenant) was something traced back not only to closely related covenants involving Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the Abrahamic Covenant), but to Noah (the Noahic Covenant) and Adam (the Adamic Covenant and the Edenic Covenant.) So, Genesis 1 and 2 are not simply prologues to the Bible meant to give some bonus information to satisfy the reader’s natural curiosity about where the universe came from, “In the beginning” is the title and beginning word of the beginning scroll of the Torah Covenant Scrolls.

    Thus, “In the beginning” refers to the beginning of Israel’s covenant relationship with God to which the Genesis 1 “Tribute to the One and Only Creator of the World” introduces the two parties to the covenants: God and humans. It is only quite secondarily a general description of how the universe began.

    (2) Jesus spoke of covenants and the beginning when the Pharisees tried to trap him in a controversial and heavily debated topic of that day,where Jesus was being asked to side either with Rabbi “divorces don’t come easily” Shammai or with Rabbi “burning your dinner is enough to justify divorce” Hillel. And instead of directly endorsing one rabbi’s side or the other, Jesus reminded them of the far more essential issue. Notice the Gospel account in Mark 10:5-6:

    5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother ….

    Young Earth Creationists almost always define terms and interpret scripture according to their modern day priorities, so they assume “from the beginning of creation” speaks of “creation week”. The also assume that “male and female” is a general reference to the two sexes found in the animal kingdom and therefore they try to make it an anti-evolution statement from Jesus himself! Accordingly, they think it thereby rules out the evolution of male and female genders.

    Of course, I have a fun time “out-literalling” them by saying: You are claiming “from the beginning of creation” means that the male and female genders were directly created by God during creation week. But, according to your own interpretations of Genesis 1, the first male and female genders of animals were created on Day 5 and Day 6—and that would be the ENDING of creation, not the beginning of creation!

    That argument usually makes YECs leave in a huff if they are on a neutral forum webpage—but if they control the forum, my post is immediately censored, the entire dialogue deleted, and I’m banned from the page thereafter.

    Obviously, the context of “from the beginning of creation” speaks of “male and female” in reference to the husband and wife that the divorce debate addresses, not male and female animals in general—for which Kim Davis would probably refuse to issue marriage licenses anyway! Jesus is taking the debate back to its very foundation: the national constitution of the Children of Israel, the Torah Covenant which explains all of the covenant provisions governing life for God’s Chosen People (the B’NAI BRITH, the Sons of the Covenant), including the very special covenant of marriage. And just as the New Testament sees the Apostle Paul describing marriage as symbolizing the covenant bonds of love between a husband and a wife as representing the covenant bonds between Jesus Christ and His Church, the Old Testament prophets describe YHWH in a marriage type of relationship with a wife known as Israel but often an adulterous wife who breaks the covenant with is to define their “marriage”.

    I should point out that Jesus most likely always preached and typically spoke in Aramaic, but the New Testament is written in Greek. So scholars often have to consider what Aramaic and Hebrew words underlie the Greek words we read. So, we wonder if Jesus speaking of “in the beginning of creation” was heard by the original audience as “….BARASHIT…”, that is, “in the beginning”, the title of the Book of Genesis and that “of creation” prompts us in our day to ask “The beginning of what?” and “The creation of what?” There again, the answer is “the beginning of the Torah Covenant relationship between God and his people. After all, who were the pharisees and scribes who were once again trying to trip up Jesus with a tricky question? They were the Ph.D. scholars, the scribes and LAWYERS, who told the people what the Torah Covenant/Contract demanded of them! They weren’t scientists awaiting Jesus’ opinion on The Theory of Evolution and the evolution of the first male and female sexes among chordate animals. The Young Earth Creationists regularly try to impose anachronism fallacies onto the Biblical texts—but when we allow both the Torah and the New Testament Gospels to speak on their own terms from their own historical and cultural contexts, it is absolutely clear that Jesus appeals to THE BEGINNING OF MARRIAGE COVENANTS described in the early chapters of BARASHITH-Genesis and the beginnings of God’s covenantal relationships with his Imago Dei creations, the HA’ADAM (the human ones, Adam and Eve) to whom he gave dominion over all of the creatures of his creation.

  8. TomS et al interested in nuances of “In the beginning” in Genesis 1:1:

    I don’t know much about Michael Miano (see link below) but he addresses some of the issues you raise in interesting ways. Moreover, I’m always glad to see someone sharing my reminders that the “resurrected Hebrew” spoken/written in Israel since its founding in 1948 is *NOT* the same as Biblical Hebrew, despite overly enthusiastic supporters of the Nation of Israel and some of the evangelical triumphalists. Most of all, Bible readers should *NOT* assume that modern-day speakers of the “Modern Israeli” language—I wince whenever I hear it called “Hebrew, like in the Bible”—are the best translators and interpreters of the Biblical text, I definitely would not depend upon them for the best rendering of the verb inflections and their nuances, and definitely not for syntax help! See this essay: