Deion Sanders, the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes, has become embroiled in a controversy over his Christian beliefs before even taking charge on the sidelines. Sanders is known for expressing his strong belief in God and integrating it into his coaching style at Jackson State. However, since his move to Colorado, he has been criticized for referencing Christianity and praying with his players.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation(FFRF) sent a letter to the University of Colorado in January, it claims that on December 20, 2022, a staff member led other staff members in a Christian prayer to start an official meeting. And on January 16, 2023, Coach Sanders directed a staff member to lead players and coaches in Christian prayer before a team meeting.
Lord, we thank You for this day, Father, for this opportunity as a group. Father, we thank You for the movement that God has put us in place to be in charge of. We thank You for each player here, each coach, each family. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
FFRF concerns that players may be pressured to pray during team meetings and they called on the university to ensure that Sanders understood that he had been hired as a football coach and not a pastor, and to prevent him from proselytizing to his players or subjecting them to coercive team prayers.
The school responded, stating that Sanders had received training on the university’s policies and the requirements of the Establishment Clause. And the First Liberty Institute came to Sanders’ defense in February, stating that public school employees, including Sanders, have the right to engage in religious expression and exercise, and that the school could be violating his rights.
Sanders has previously credited his faith for helping him overcome obstacles in his life, including a serious health issue that led to two toes being amputated. Despite the controversy, he remains a high-profile hire for the Colorado Buffaloes, having already brought in some high-prized recruits.
As the 2023 season approaches, Sanders finds himself caught in the middle between two religious groups with opposing views on his integration of his faith into his coaching. The debate raises questions about the boundaries of religious expression in public institutions and the rights of public school employees.