In the seat of the "tolerance" movement, the University of Connecticut appears to be making it clear that tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity embody the ultimate expression of truth---unless it involves Jesus.
Ernest Jones is the assistant football coach at UCONN. He is also responsible for a year long personal life development program for the football players.
In an interview with the Hartford Courant he said, "Just because you come to the University of Connecticut doesn't mean you won't have the opportunity to pursue your faith. No, you're going to come here and love the God you love. So we provide opportunities for [players] to grow spiritually in our community."
He then explained how, regardless of a players religious background, he would be helped and encouraged.
But his reference to Jesus brought the blitz.
He said, "Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle."
Rena Epstein, a West Hartford resident, wrote a letter to the paper and the president saying the coach's words made her feel "alienated."
UCONN President Susan Herbst has publicly rebuked Coach Jones, while the Anti-Defamation League says he is a good man.
Herbst said in a letter to The Hartford Courant: “At public universities we value everyone in our community, and treat each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of who they are, what their background is, or what their beliefs may be. Every student, including student-athletes, must know they are accepted and welcomed at UConn. Always. Our staff should educate and guide students, to ensure they are well-prepared for life at UConn and beyond."
“But it should go without saying that our employees cannot appear to endorse or advocate for a particular religion or spiritual philosophy as part of their work at the university, or in their interactions with our students. This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field. Our athletic director and Coach Diaco agree wholeheartedly with me, and have made this clear to their staff.”
This story has now become a national one with Fox News and others reporting on it.
What is missing, and raises serious questions, at least in my mind, is why the rest of what Coach Jones actually said is generally being ignored, particularly by those who feel "alienated."
He certainly did refer to Jesus being in the huddle, but in explaining that students would be encouraged in all aspects of their lives, he also said, "So I'll get out and meet some people in the community so when this young man, for example, says 'I'm a Seventh Day Adventist,' or 'I'm a Catholic,' or 'I'm a Baptist' or I'm a 'Jehovah's Witness', well, OK, here you go."
Jones has had a very successful career at Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Buffalo. He is not a rookie at coaching. By all accounts he has terrific people skills.
But President Herbst condemns him and Gary Jones of the Anti-Defamation League says "he made a mistake" because of his background at the Catholic school. Even Gary Jones said he didn't want people to think Coach Jones "is a bad person or has bad motives."
The head coach told WTIC radio announcer Bob Joyce last week, "It is a great role that Jones is an expert at and it is making sure players have a yearlong plan for developing a myriad of different areas."
He said, "Let's call it social development."
"It is teaching them about agents; it's teaching them about drugs and alcohol; it's teaching them and giving them inspirational stories from people that had adversity and persevered," he said.
The University says it was a mistake that has now been dealt with and corrected.
Is it? And has it?
Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel says what the football coach did "is a perfectly permissible thing to do. It brings cohesion and unity to the team. He's not excluding anyone of faith or no faith."
"On the other hand," Staver says, the reaction of the university president "goes way too far."
Staver also makes an interesting historical point. He reminds us that most of America's colleges and universities began with Christian intent and many today still have religious mottos and mission statements.
He says this incident "clearly underscores what's wrong with our public education system."
It also underscores the hypocrisy of our education system and of a culture driven by secular progressivism.
It is impossible for an individual to find meaning and direction in their life apart from a moral sense of right and wrong.
The removal of any moral compass discriminates against the best interests of the individual.
Christians are increasingly targeted for most any public expression of their faith. Should people of faith become more subtle or silent in expressing their faith, giving greater credence to their circumstances? Or should they simply "obey God rather than man" and be out with their faith regardless of the circumstances or consequences?
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