A faculty committee has recommended that Iowa State University create a position to offer football players counseling or religious guidance.
The Iowa State Athletic Council voted to have a volunteer religious adviser on staff as long as that person doesn’t lead religious activities at mandatory team functions.
“We have taken serious the faith needs of Iowa State student-athletes, but also have worked hard to protect the interests of student-athletes of different faiths and those with no faith,” said Tim Day, chairman of the athletic council.
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said the position would likely be called a “life skills assistant” and would provide resources and contacts for athletes.
“We have student-athletes who have a lot to deal with and often need someone to turn to,” Pollard said. “I believe we need to provide that kind of assistance.”
The council’s recommendation will be forwarded to Iowa State President Gregory Geoffrey for his approval.
Geoffrey asked the council to review the issue after more than 100 faculty members signed a petition saying that having a chaplain for the football team would violate the separation of church and state. Coach Gene Chizik has asked that a chaplain be appointed to the team.
Bill David, a music professor who helped lead the petition drive, doubted the recommendation would satisfy those who signed the petition.
“I don’t think that the faculty members who signed the petition are going to be fooled by a semantic distinction about what the position is called,” David said.
Paula Morrow, an Iowa State faculty athletic representative, said the recommendation draws a distinct “line in the sand.”
“I have no objection to someone having voluntary Bible study with players on the night before a game,” Morrow said. “I do have problems with someone leading a team prayer before a game because that could be considered coercive.”
Day said the council recommended that the adviser be allowed to participate in religious activities with athletes outside of team functions. He agreed that any prayers led during team functions must be initiated and led by players.
– Associated Press
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