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After religious-freedom complaint, Dabo Swinney says all faiths are welcome at Clemson

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, right, watches the first day of NCAA college football spring practice for the team, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Clemson, S.C
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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, right, watches the first day of NCAA college football spring practice for the team, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

After a complaint was filed against Clemson asking for a clear separation between religion and its football program last week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney responded Wednesday and said all faiths are welcome at Clemson.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said Swinney had violated the separation of church and state with bible studies, devotionals and other religious activities. Clemson is a state-run university.

"Over the past week or two, there has been a lot of discussion of my faith," Swinney said in the statement. "We have three rules in our program that everybody must follow: (1) players must go to class, (2) they must give a good effort and (3) they must be good citizens. It is as simple as that.

"I have recruited and coached players of many different faiths. Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character."

Swinney is very open about his Christian faith.

"Recruiting is very personal," the statement continued. "Recruits and their families want – and deserve – to know who you are as a person, not just what kind of coach you are. I try to be a good example to others, and I work hard to live my life according to my faith. I am proud of the great success we have had in developing good players and good men at Clemson. We win at the highest level and we graduate players who excel on the field and in life because of their time in Death Valley. I want to thank Clemson University and all the people who have reached out to offer their support and encouragement over the past few weeks."

In the group's complaint, the FFRF said that Clemson was promoting Christianity and Swinney personally selected the team's chaplain, among other things. The group looked into Clemson's football program via open records requests.

The ACC held its spring teleconference Wednesday and Swinney said participation in the team's spiritual activities was voluntary for all players and the team will "continue to run the program the way we always have."

"Anything that we have in our program from a spiritual standpoint is and always has been voluntary," Swinney said. "We're no different than any other program out there in how we operate as far as providing our players opportunities to grow in any aspect of their lives."

After the complaint was filed, a Clemson spokesperson said the university didn't believe Swinney was violating any laws.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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