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Clemson: FFRF 'misconstrued' facts in complaint

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 1, 2014 at 4:23 pm •  Published: May 1, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An attorney for Clemson University wrote that the Freedom From Religion Foundation had misstated the law in its complaint that Tigers coach Dabo Swinney intertwines his Christian religion with the football program.

The school's senior associate counsel Erin Swann Lauderdale sent a letter dated April 24 in reply to the FFRF's complaint. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

Swann's response to FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliott said her initial review of the letter showed, "it is clear that you have misconstrued important facts and made incorrect statements of the law."

The group, based in Madison, Wisconsin, sent its complaints this month. According to the foundation, Swinney has promoted a culture in the program that promotes Christianity and violates constitutional guidelines against publicly funded institutions endorsing religion or engaging in religious exercises.

The foundation's complaint, sent to the university last month, said Swinney selected James Trapp as team chaplain, which it believed violated Clemson's guidelines. Other issues the group cited were Trapp having an office in an athletic building and being given access to the "entire football team in between drills for the purpose of bible study."

The foundation also said Swinney and staff members were coercive when asking the entire team to attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast in 2011, organizing team devotionals or taking the team and staff to church services as it says occurred several times.

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