College Athletes Persecuted for Religious Beliefs

Three former students of New Mexico State in Las Cruces have filed suit alleging coach Hal Mumme instituted a “religious brotherhood” within the football team. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on August 28th on behalf of three former New Mexico state football players who now attend school at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

The gist of the allegations seem to be that the ‘religious brotherhood” singled out the athletes. Now, I would expect that any good religious person hearing this will jump to the defense of the athletes, loudly proclaiming that they have every right to worship God and how dare the University try to ostracize them for their beliefs. Oh, yea, that’s right-the athletes in question are Muslim. No quick jump to their defense from the religious right in America. Never mind that the coach had players recite the Lord’s Prayer after each practice and before each game. Never mind that after he found out they were Muslim, the coach allegedly prohibited the two brothers (Anthony and Vincent Thompson, who have recently adopted Muslim names-and are Americans, by the way) from attending spring training camp. They were later labeled “troublemakers” and dismissed from the team. The third athlete, Mu’Ammar Ali (the leading rusher for New Mexico State in 2004) learned through a phone message that he had been dismissed from the team in the fall of 2005. After many attempts made by and on the behalf of the athletes, the remaining course of action was to file the lawsuit.

First, the recitation of any prayer should never be a sanctioned part of a practice or game preparation, no matter the religion. Not if we aren’t a Theocracy. Last time I checked, we weren’t-yet. As an observer of religion from the standpoint of not favoring one mythology over another, It is easy to see that the school and the coach were in the wrong. This incident is but one more that shows us we need to continue to press for a “Wall of Separation” between Church and State.

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