In January of this year The Columbus Dispatch ran an article in the sports section stating that newly hired Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer would be conducting bible study and chapel services for his players. It included this quote: “Meyer said the optional services he’ll offer players at Ohio State will be nondenominational Christian. But he said he would tell the young men that if they want to worship a different way, he’ll ‘certainly cater to that as well.’” This caused some comment, including my blog post of February 19th entitled “Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team” (which gathered 500 hits almost immediately and came to the attention of the players), http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2012/02/urban-meyer-and-christian-buckeye.html. I was accused of trying to bring down the football program Meyer was building, when the truth is that I’ve always been a rabid Buckeye football (and basketball) fan, having season tickets to the games for decades up until I retired from the law school faculty (by which time I’d worked my way by seniority to the 45 yard line, three rows up—great seats!). I was and am counting on Urban to revitalize the team as the Meyer years begin. However I strongly object to any university official conducting religious classes on campus (and these were, I’m told, held in the Woody Hayes Center itself, the very ground zero of Ohio State sports).
In the February post I also objected to punishing "slacker" football players by making them wear a lavender shirt (the color of the gay community, and called the “queer” shirt by the players), and after a gay student group petitioned Coach Meyer about this, he agreed it was inappropriate, and the color was ultimately changed to blue (in reference to that hated team up north).
There things stood until Freedom From Religion Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor recently wrote OSU President Gordon Gee objecting to religious classes being held by the coaches, at which point President Gee responded to her in a letter that clearly stated that no such classes had ever been conducted by Urban Meyer or any other coach, adding that any religious instruction the players were getting was sponsored by Athletes in Action, a registered student organization, which does meet on campus and offers Bible studies and counseling to all students. Gee denied that coaches “invite” players to participate. As for the original statements by Urban Meyer in the January Dispatch article, he said that no such statements were made and that the Dispatch report was “inaccurate.” A university spokesman added that Meyer had been “misquoted.”
When the Dispatch published an article last week about this (in the local news section of the paper, not the sports section), it included this comment:
The university never requested a correction to the story, said Dispatch Editor Benjamin J. Marrison. “We stand behind the story,” he said.
But the end result is a happy one. I’m a firm believer in freedom of religion for those who want to practice their religion, but also insist on freedom from religion for those who don’t. As a lawyer I’m very sure that the government may not tell people what religious activities to attend without running into both constitutional problems and ugly headlines. Gordon Gee, also a law professor (and devout Mormon) obviously agrees.
Of course the university has accused the Columbus Dispatch of, at best, journalistic incompetence, and, at worst, lying, but the Dispatch is a major newspaper, has seen these dustups before, and presumably has a different take on what really happened here.
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Superstitions,”March 21, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
"An Atheist's Christmas Card," December 23, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-guide-to-best-of-my-blog.html