Diversity must threaten the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The club’s 15-member “honorary board” consists only of white anti-religionists. These self-righteous faux legal proselytizers want everyone to live and believe as they do.
It is no surprise this outfit wants national treasure Deion Sanders to behave as they dictate in his new role as the University of Colorado’s football coach. They want the NFL Hall of Famer and former pro baseball player to shut up and coach. They demand he suppress something central to his being — a trait no less important than his racial identity.
Boulder and the University of Colorado’s flagship have long struggled in futility to achieve diversity. Blacks comprise 1.2% of Boulder’s population. Last fall, among the 36,122 CU-Boulder students, 2.6% were black.
Boulder and CU lack the big three in diversity — race, ethnicity and religion. Nearly 60% of Boulder residents surveyed claim “no religion.” Non-denominational Christians are such an anomaly they show up as 0.0% on surveys. A Gallup poll ranks Boulder the second-least religious city in the United States.
The hiring of an iconic, universally respected Black man with a household name has ignited hope for mitigating Boulder’s diversity problem.
Sanders uses social media to express how surprisingly impressed he and his family are with Boulder. That is no surprise. Boulder is a small city at the base of the foothills with a downtown scene major cities envy. Serious crimes are scarce. Kayakers and tubers ride the crystal-clear Boulder Creek as it meanders through town. World-class chefs and top-tier buskers live and work there by choice.
DaWon Baker, CU-Boulder’s associate athletic director for diversity, equity and inclusion, fully expects Sanders to make CU and Boulder more attractive to minorities. If the Sanders family adores Boulder, they might improve the city’s image among other Black families and prospective students. That would be great.
“We want to make sure that he (Sanders) is seen as someone who is accessible to our campus and specifically to our students of color who are not athletes, as well,” Baker told the publication BuffZone.
Sanders also brings the other lacking element of diversity. He is a dyed-in-the wool Christian. He is black and proud; Christian and proud. Sanders centers his life, during work and play, around prayer and his love of God.
This is common in athletics. Both quarterbacks in this year’s Super Bowl proudly proclaim their love for God. When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, professional athletes prayed boldly on camera for his recovery.
Sanders found religion after a failed suicide attempt in 1997. He joined a Christian church in Dallas that works to eradicate poverty and youth violence.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation finds the religious side of Sanders offensive and incessantly complains to CU’s administration and the media. They say Sanders was hired to coach, not preach. If he’s not in a private space, they say, he must keep his beliefs to himself.
The law is not on their side. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion may not be infringed. We have freedom of religious expression, not freedom from it. The Constitution doesn’t carve an exception for coaches at state-funded schools. The First Amendment prohibits governments from obstructing religious beliefs, meaning private entities probably have more authority than their public counterparts to regulate expressions of faith.
The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District erased any doubt about Sanders’ right to speak and pray in his public-sector job. The court ruled against the district for firing a football coach for praying in the middle of the field in view of players and the public, with players often joining him.
“A government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination,” wrote the court.
Sanders should not and does not coerce prayer or acceptance of his faith by anyone on campus. Oh, say the Freedom From Religion bullies, religious coaches will bench players who don’t appreciate their displays of faith. That amounts to coercion, they insist. It is hard to imagine a sillier hypothesis. Coaches win or get fired. They play those who increase the odds of winning, whether they worship trees or the secular movement’s Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Sanders adds to Boulder’s racial and religious diversity, and that’s a good thing. He is, through and through, a Black man who openly worships God. That is his identity, of which he is proud, and he should not change it for anyone. The law, as ruled by the court of final appeal, has the coach’s back in this attack on who he is.