I was really surprised to learn that the Madison, Wis., based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has threatened a lawsuit against Auburn University involving my very good friend Chette Williams. As some of you may know, Chette is the Chaplain for the football team and he does an outstanding job in that capacity. The group complaining says “unconstitutional Christian chaplaincies embedded in public university football programs,” are not a good thing. FFRF, which has previously sued or threatened suit against school systems and other public institutions around the country, including several in Alabama, reportedly wrote to Auburn University President Jay Gogue requesting that he abolish the chaplain’s position with the Tigers football program.
I understand this organization sent letters to numerous institutions, including the University of Alabama, which it says failed to respond to a request relating to the team chaplain at the schools. FFRF claims Chette has an office in Jordan-Hare Stadium and that’s totally false. I have visited Chette in his office on a number of occasions and know exactly where he is located. The organization takes issue with Chette leading football players in prayer and baptizing some of the players. I wonder how many of the parents of those players are complaining about Chette’s activities at Auburn University.
Cassie Arner with Auburn University’s Athletics Department issued a statement recently saying, “Chaplains are common in many public institutions, including the U.S. Congress. The football team chaplain isn’t an Auburn employee, and participation in activities he leads are voluntary.” I know that to be a truthful statement. No player is required to participate in any activity involving Chette. Everything is strictly on a voluntary basis.
Chette started as team Chaplin in the Fall of 1999 when Tommy Tuberville was the head coach. He serves as the Auburn campus director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Chette’s time with the team dates to the 1980s when he played on the team coached by Pat Dye. Chette helped his teammates win the Sugar Bowl during his playing days. Chette has told me that Pat Dye was like a father to him and that the coach totally turned his life around. Another friend of mine, Kyle Collins, a running back on the team at the time, was responsible for Chette accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Chette says that was the most important decision that he has ever made.
Chette Williams is a good man, a totally dedicated Christian and I consider him to be a very good friend. I know that Chette’s salary is paid by the FCA and I know that he has turned around the lives of lots of young men and women at Auburn. Personally, I believe that to be a good thing. We really need more individuals like Chette involved with student athletes at every level in our public and private schools, starting in the lower grades and going all the way through the college level. In fact, I believe most professional teams currently have chaplains. Those that don’t should consider having one. Based on some of the conduct by a few professional athletes, they need some help.
My prayer today is for more men and women like Chette Williams who are willing to dedicate their lives to working with young people. Teaching youngsters how to cope with all of the problems they face today is very important. God has blessed Chette Williams, giving him the talent and desire needed to work with young athletes. In my opinion, Chette is doing an outstanding job. I support what Chette is doing 100 percent and pray for him constantly.
At a time when young people need positive influences in their lives, having a chaplain involved with a football team makes good sense for a number of reasons. I don’t believe Auburn will make any changes that affect Chette Williams’ role as Chaplain. I am convinced that Chette will remain as Chaplain of the Auburn football team and will continue to do a most important work in the lives of young men and women at Auburn. May God continue to bless and use him.
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