The legal department of the University of Colorado is currently examining a letter citing a verbal dispute between two advocacy groups concerning the Christian prayers of football coach Deion Sanders.
On Tuesday, the First Liberty Institute, a group that promotes religious freedom, sent a letter and requests to the university in reaction to a letter and requests from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that were sent in January.
In December of 2022, Deion Sanders had been named as the head coach of the football team at the University of Colorado, after leading the Jackson State Tigers to the Southwestern Athletic Conference title. He had previously served as an offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill High School in Texas, and his experience as a coach, along with his success as a player, was cited as factors in his appointment.
Life is Good but God is better. #CoachPrime
— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) March 2, 2023
In his press conference with Colorado (watch below) Primetime thanked God for the opportunity. “Don’t you ever tell me where God ain’t,” Sanders said. “Don’t you ever tell me His limits. Don’t you ever tell me what you’re up against and what you can’t do.
“Out of all the persons in the world, God chose me. For that, I thank Him. For that, I love Him. For that, I magnify Him. For that, I glorify Him. For that, I praise Him. For that, I owe Him. Each and every day, I’m trying to please Him.”
It is not uncommon to see NCAA or NFL players and coaches pray before, during, or after a game.
However, there are some rules and regulations around public displays of prayer in college football. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has guidelines that prohibit institutions, coaches, and student-athletes from promoting or endorsing religious activities during athletic events or on the field of play.
Why is there so much hatred & anger ? It's somewhat because most of us had opportunity & we messed it up. When we see another person take advantage of the very thing that we were complacent & without focus we lose it. Thank God we have a God of second chances. #CoachPrime
— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) March 2, 2023
Now, Steve Hurlbert, director of communications and chief spokesperson at the University of Colorado Boulder, wrote in an email to The Center Square, “As we’ve just recently received it, our legal department is reviewing, and we don’t have comment at this time.”
In January, the Freedom From Religion Foundation expressed apprehensions to Phil DiStefano, the university’s chancellor, about Sanders’ “advocacy of religion and potential religious compulsion through the football program.”
In a three-page letter, signed by staff attorney Christopher Line, the Foundation stated that many concerned Coloradans had reached out to them. The organization promotes “the constitutional principle of separation of state and church” and educates the public “on matters relating to nontheism,” according to its website.
The letter requested that Sanders be “instructed about his constitutional responsibilities under the Establishment Clause” and that written notice be sent to outline the actions the university is taking to ensure that Sanders “does not continue to proselytize to his players or subject them to coercive team prayers.”
Deion Sanders legs out an inside the park home run. pic.twitter.com/HExy8FClkF
— Random MLB Moments (@moments_mlb) February 21, 2023
Patrick O’Rourke, the university’s executive vice chancellor, wrote to Line on Jan. 31 and affirmed the university’s commitment to non-discrimination. O’Rourke stated that the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance met with Coach Sanders the previous Friday to provide instruction on non-discrimination policies and to explain the limitations on religious expression for players and coaches.
“Coach Sanders responded positively to this training and gained a better understanding of the University of Colorado’s policies and the requirements of the Establishment Clause,” O’Rourke wrote.
The hiring was met with mixed reactions, with some welcoming his arrival and others expressing concerns about his views on religion and politics. Sanders has spoken publicly about his struggles and the emptiness he felt before turning to Jesus, and he now sees his faith as the most important aspect of his life. He has also talked about how his faith influences the way he approaches coaching and working with young athletes, and he has been praised for his positive impact on the players he works with.