You are on page 1of 12

Sent via U.S. Mail and Email to: cegan@admin.fsu.

edu
September 12, 2014
Ms. Carolyn Egan
General Counsel, FSU
PO Box 3060000
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1470
Re: Chaplain and First Amendment violations in FSU football program
Dear Attorney Egan:
We corresponded in December 2012 regarding FSU footballs team chaplain, Clint Purvis, his role,
and the chaplaincy generally. At that time, I requested records under the Florida Sunshine Law (Fl.
Stat. 119). By way of reintroduction, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national non-
profit with more than 21,000 members including more than 1,000 members in Florida. We protect
the constitutional separation between state and church.
I write again for two reasons: (1) the records request remains unfulfilled; and (2) we have reason to
believe that the chaplaincy, Purviss role, and his qualifications are different than you were led to
believe. In fact, it appears that this chaplaincy is nothing more than a longstanding violation of the
First Amendment that began during Bobby Bowdens tenure.
Bobby Bowden began a culture of disrespect for the separation of state and church
On August 27, Bobby Bowden appeared on Fox News to discuss his new book, The Wisdom of
Faith.
1
Bowden admitted to proselytizing his players. We also understand he instituted the
chaplaincy to further that goal. It appears that this culture, which elevates coaches Christianity over
the strictures laid out in our Constitution, continues.
Elizabeth Hasselbeck gushed that Bowden will feel himself a failure if he doesnt share that
message of Christ with others. She continued, But now teams are not going to be allowedOrange
County right now saying no place for faith in football. So that message that youre giving coach, is
not going to perhaps be allowed on the football field anymore, what do you think about that?
Well, I do it anyway. I did it anyway at Florida State. I dont care about political correctness,
Bowden responded. I want to be spiritually correct. This is a clear admission that he violated the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Mark Richt, Bowdens former assistant coach, joined the interview and said that Bowden did share
his faith, actually, with the entire football team after the death of Pablo Lopez He basically
presented the Gospel to the team He was talking to the team, but I was a young graduate assistant
coach right there I was convicted [sic] to go see coach the next morning and pray to receive Christ
as my Lord and savior.
1
August 27, 2014 appearance, at http://bit.ly/1ooX1tQ.

2

Bowden doubled down on trampling the constitution a few days later, I had to be like a father to
these boys. Well, my father taught me about the Bible, my father taught me about church
2
He
complained about Orange County Public Schools correctly abolishing their football chaplains, Why
in the world would we want to prevent God from being in these schools?
3


On his Christian Broadcasting Network biography Bowden notes that he told his players they would
be encouraged to attend church on Sunday.
4
According to his pastor, Doug Dortch, God has
given him a tremendous window of opportunity and Coach Bowden uses it faithfully and obediently.
Virtually every message he shares contains the plan of salvation, and his heart is truly to see people
come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
5
Bowden would tell players, I don't want to offend
your family or your parents, but I have a relationship [with Jesus], and if I don't tell you about it then
I'd be doing wrong.
6


Bowden assumed the title evangelist. [I]t is a good name, he said. I think more of it as trying to
give my witness, but it does involve evangelizing thats what God wants me to do.
7


Bowden established the chaplaincy to help spread his particular brand of Christianity
We understand that Bowden established the team chaplain position, appointing Ken Smith to the
position, in 1981. After hearing Smith speak at an FCA event, Bowden asked him to be the team
chaplain. Not many people had chaplains and no one was sure what a chaplain did, said Smith.
Coach Bowden just wanted someone who would work with Christian athletes.
8
Purvis took over
from Smith in 1988.

Bowden hired Purvis from his own church.
9
And Purvis, has come to mirror Coach Bowdens
highly effective philosophy of ministry.
10
In one of his books, Bowden wrote, I really tried to
point the boys in the right direction. Our team chaplain, Clint Purvis, had Bible study during the
week. We had a team chapel. We had a devotional before every coaching staff meeting. I had
Christians speak to our teams before games. One time, Billy Graham spoke to my team before one
of his revivals
11


Incidentally, the former chaplain, Smith, confirmed Richts story above:

Out of Pablo Lopezs death, assistant coach Mark Richt became a Christian, reminded Ken
Smith, alluding to Georgias current head coach. Bobby became stronger in how he shared
faith. When Lopez died, Ill never forget being in the hospital. Coach Bowden told me that
night I will never again coach a kid where I dont know where he stands in his faith. And he

2
Mike Bianchi, Bobby Bowden on Orange County schools: Why are we trying to kick God out of everything? Orlando
Sentinel (Sept 3, 2014) at http://bit.ly/1rGBKl5
3
Id.
4
700 Club Guest Bio, at http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/Bobby-Bowden-090210.aspx
5
Allen Palmeri, Fla. State coach develops ministry masterpiece on gridiron, Baptist Press (Jan. 10, 2003) available at
http://bpsports.net/bpsports.asp?ID=3710.
6
Id.
7
Id.
8
Don Leypoldt, Seminoles Run Recalls Strong FCA Roots, FCA.org (Jan. 4, 2014) at http://bit.ly/1Af62Mk; Ken Smith
biography at Chaplains Connect, http://bit.ly/1u6Q6fr
9
Palmeri supra note 5.
10
Id.
11
Bobby Bowden, Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football, 143 (Simon & Schuster, 2011).

3
didnt. From there on, [Bowden] was very bold in sharing his faith and what it meant. He
was never coercive or intimidating. He didnt hit anyone over the head with a Bible but he
was very explicit in his relationship with Christ.
12


According to players, after that, [e]very meeting and practice started with a devotional. When I
asked Coach why he did this, he said he wanted to make sure that every one of his players spot in
Heaven was secure.
13


Bowden sent the chaplain to players, not vice versa, he inevitably had a list of kids where he would
ask [the chaplain] Can you go check on? and then hed give me some kids to check on.
14


Bowden stated his goal most boldly in his book, Gods purpose for me was to go into coaching and
try to influence young men for Jesus Christ. He wanted me not only to teach them to be good people
but also to surrender their lives to Him.

Disrespect for the rule of law and using fear to proselytize
We are aware the Bowden retired after 2009 season, but we understand that this culture of disrespect
continues. The coverage of Bowdens last Gator game is instructive. Bowden huddled with
offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting [and now head coach] Jimbo Fisher as players made their
final preparations. Bowden and Fisher [joined] in a private prayer with team chaplain Clint Purvis.
Fisher gave the pre-game talk to the players; Bowden led the team in prayer.
15
There is a photo
available online.
16


In your previous letter, you wrote There is no evidence that Mr. Purvis or any FSU coaches
proselytize or discuss religion absent a request from a student athlete. As you can see from the
above admissions, there is ample evidence.

Bowden and the chaplaincy he established show a shocking disrespect for this great nations
founding document, the Constitution.

Particularly disturbing are Bowden and the chaplains proselytizing, which can only be described as
fear-mongering. Bowden and the chaplain used the death of a beloved teammate to terrify students,
who looked to them as leaders, into believing in their particular religious brand. Lopezs horrifying
murder is tragic, but no tragedy is an excuse to violate the Constitution. (Bowdens new team, the
Fellowship of Christian Athletes, thinks differently. They publicly stated that God used the horror
of Pablo Lopezs murder to advance His Kingdom.
17
)

Chaplains travel with the team
We also know that Bowden had chaplains travel with the team, Coach Bowden called and asked
[Pastor Ken Smith] to come speak to the team. The next week he was invited to travel with the team
to LSU. He sat in the stands until the third quarter when Coach asked him to come and stand with

12
Leypoldt supra note 8.
13
Id.
14
Id.
15
Dan Coble, Emotional day begins, ends with walk for Bobby Bowden, Florida Times-Union (Jan. 1, 2010) at
http://bit.ly/1vXcEBv; See also Garry Smits, Bowdens final practice ends with special huddle, Florida Times-Union (Dec. 31,
2009) at http://bit.ly/1CysLal
16
Available at http://bit.ly/1tyR997.
17
Leypoldt supra note 8.

4
him. That lasted for eight years as he became the volunteer chaplain.
18
Purvis continued this hands-
on approach and even went on an FSU cruise with other coaches.
19


Purvis appears to have a role in recruiting
In 2012, you also wrote, Purvis does not recruit players or accompany coaches on recruitment
visits. This appears fallacious: FSU wide receiver commitment C.J. Worton competed and looked
good. He spoke well of his relationship with coach [Lawrence] Dawsey and team chaplain Clint
Purvis.
20
Purvis has also been photographed with recruits.
21
He has talked extensively about
FSUs recruiting, As we recruit athletesthen when we get them to Florida State
22
He gave this
sermon, introduced as Florida State Chaplain and wearing a shirt sporting Florida State
University and the FSU logo. We remind you that this is FSU is a state institution that cannot
affiliate with or endorse any church over another.

Purvis does lead and has led the team in prayers
You also stated that Purvis does not lead the team in prayers and that he only responds suitably to
requests or inquiries from [those] who seek him out. It also appears that this is wrong given that
coaches kept lists of players who the coaches instructed the chaplain to visit.

Purvis has publicly said that he does a team devotional before every game.
23
There are
photographs of Purvis leading not only the Seminoles, but other teams in prayer.
24
The caption even
reads Purvis leads the Seminoles and the Bruins in a prayer. When discussing the religious
activities of his athletes last year, Coach Fisher said that Purvis goes through the Scripture during
chapel and that Purvis does our chapel.
25


During Bowdens last practice, Purvis urged all of the players to come forward and had as many of
them as possible put their hands on Bowden's shoulders and back, Purvis said later [the act] was a
prayer of thanksgiving.
26


Purviss religious training and the clear favoring of Christian students amounts to
discrimination against non-Christian students.
Purviss employment opens FSU to a discrimination lawsuit. No doubt Purvis intends, at least
nominally, to assist people of all faiths as your last letter indicated. But employing only a Baptist
chaplain is not non-denominational. It alienates nonreligious and non-Christian players and staff:
19% of adult Americans are nonreligious
27
and 32% of Americans under the age of 30all FSU
athletesare nonreligious.
28



18
Ken Smith biography at Chaplains Connect, http://bit.ly/1u6Q6fr
19
Jim Joanos, 2009 Seminole Cruise, Seminole Spotlight (April 2009) at http://bit.ly/1Bgnm6g
20
Bud Elliott, Florida State football recruiting, SB Nation (June 17, 2013) at http://bit.ly/1rGGDui
21
FSU great Deion Sanders inducted into college football Hall of Fame, Tallahassee.com (June 1, 2011) at
http://bit.ly/ZaLbyC
22
Purvis sermon at Cross Church, Ark. (Sept. 29, 2011) at http://bit.ly/1reDzBB at 12:45
23
Id. at 10:30
24
See enclosed screenshot or http://bit.ly/1Cyx6dr; also, http://bit.ly/1rGOWWX
25
Scott Kotick, A Golden Promise, Seminoles.com (Jan. 26, 2013) at http://bit.ly/1qtNpDi
26
Smits supra note 15
27
Pew Forum, Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faiths, 148 (July 2012) at http://pewrsr.ch/WlH40w
28
Nones on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, Pew Research Center, The Pew Forum on Religion &
Public Life (October 9, 2012) available at http://pewrsr.ch/1lFciM7

5
These players should not be encouraged to compromise their beliefs and use religious support
services. Nonreligious players are still on the team, but if they want help free from judgment by their
superiors, they are forced to do so on their own time, or risk being subjected to the ministry of a
Christian chaplain. All in all, this program discriminates against players by providing a Baptist
chaplain who is only equipped to handle the needs of some. This program alienates and discriminates
against nonbelievers and non-Christians.

It is simply not true that chaplains can meet the needs of nonbelievers and believers of other faiths. If
chaplains were adept at providing secular therapy, they would be therapists, not chaplains. There is
no reason to think a nonbelieving player would be comfortable dealing with a person who provides
comfort from a religious viewpoint. Chaplains cannot simply set aside their religion in order to assist
a nonbeliever, and are often unwilling to even try to do so. Chaplains view the world and its
problems through the lens of religion and a god, a view inapposite to nonbelievers. Claims that
someone is in a better place or that a god works in mysterious ways may be the bedrock of
religious consolation, but are meaningless and even hurtful trivialities to nonbelievers.

A secular counselor would be equipped to counsel all players, and would be actually licensed to do
so. Favoring religious players with free, on-field counseling and ignoring the needs of non-
Christians or the nonreligious is discriminatory.

Purviss qualifications may be significantly less than you have been told.
Your last letter claims that Purvis holds masters degrees in counseling and psychology. In none of
Mr. Purviss public biographies is it suggested that he has a degree in psychology. As for his
counseling degree, other bios indicate that he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
where he got his MA in Counseling.
29


Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary does not offer an MA in Counseling. They do offer an
MA in Biblical Counselinga significant difference
The Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling is a 66-hour program of study designed
primarily to equip Christian men and women to minister Gods Word through counseling in
the context of the local church or other Christian ministries. The degree includes 29 hours of
theological preparation vital for effectively interpreting and ministering the Word of God.
The counseling courses (37 hours) will prepare students to apply Gods Word in both formal
and informal counseling settings.
30
Most of these counseling courses are religious, like
Principles of Biblical Counseling.
31


There is nothing in this description, and apparently nothing in Purvis background that equips him to
deal with any non-Christian or non-religious players.
Moreover, this counseling is a form of proselytizing that only exacerbates the constitutional
problems with allowing Purvis access to students. In a recent expos of biblical counseling, Matthew
Stanford, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, weighed in: I can
honestly tell you, as someone whos been doing this for 20 years, that Ive never seen someone who
has a serious mental illness that went to a biblical counselor and didnt actually get worse and get
hurt, Stanford says. Ive never seen them get better.
32


29
See Purvis, supra note 23; Florida Turfgrass Association speaker bio, at http://bit.ly/1ql6V56
30
See SWTBS website at http://bit.ly/ZaNem4
31
SWBTS course requirements for MA in Biblical Counseling, at http://bit.ly/1rGSit4
32
Kathryn Joyce, The Rise of Biblical Counseling, Pacific Standard Sept. 2, 2014) at http://bit.ly/1lFclaM

6

In other words, if he does not have degrees in secular counseling or psychology, Purvis presence
probably harms student-athletes in need of genuine counseling. This makes the discrimination,
establishment clause concerns, and factual allegations above significantly more egregious. We
request that you further investigate and explain his qualifications.

Athletic chaplains at public universities are unconstitutional
Government chaplains may only exist as an accommodation of a public employees religious beliefs
when the government makes it difficult or impossible to seek out private ministries. See Carter v.
Broadlawns Medical Center, 857 F.2d 448 (8
th
Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1096 (1989) For
instance, it may be difficult for military service members to find a place of worship while on mission
in a foreign country or for an inmate in a prison to find a way to worship. Katcoff v. Marsh, 755 F.2d
223 (2d. Cir. 1985). Chaplains are meant to lighten the government-imposed burden on religious
exercise. FSU football players have no government imposed burden on their religion so there is no
needor legitimate legal reasonfor FSU to provide chaplains for them. Purviss employment,
even if volunteer, demonstrates endorsement of religion, which is a violation of the Constitution.

This violation cannot be cured by claiming that the players can voluntarily seek out Purvis
(especially given the admissions that coaches tell Purvis which players to visit). First, players can
seek out religious guidance at any of the other campus ministries or in the local community. The
football team does not need to employ or host a volunteer chaplainindeed, it cannot legally do so.
Second, voluntariness has never been used to excuse a constitutional violation. At the college level,
voluntary prayers are unconstitutional if organized by university staff and if students would feel
pressure to join, as any team member would. Mellen v. Bunting, 327 F.3d 355, 372 (4th Cir. 2003)
(finding practice of holding religious prayers at dinner at state-operated military college was
unconstitutional, though participation was voluntary).

Given the serious and longstanding entanglement of the FSU football program with Purvis and other
Baptist chaplains, we have no reason to believe this situation has changed. Your previous letter
neglects does not comport with coaches statements or other public information. Clearly, the
relationship between Seminole football and Christianity is out of bounds.

In conclusion, we ask for (1) a full investigation into Purvis role and that FSU abolish athletic
chaplaincies (2) the records in the attached request, and (3) that General Counsel issue a memo to
FSU athletics teams outlining the appropriate boundaries between state and church.

Sincerely,

Andrew L. Seidel
Attorney
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Enclosures: Open Records Request
2012 Open Records Request never fulfilled
screenshot of Purvis leading team in prayer
FSU letter to FFRF, Dec. 21, 2012.



Sent via U.S. Mail and Email to: cegan@admin.fsu.edu

September 12, 2014

Ms. Carolyn Egan
General Counsel, FSU
PO Box 3060000
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1470

Re: Open Records Request

Dear Ms. Egan:

I represent the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a national nonprofit organization
with members in Georgia that advocates for the separation of state and church. We request
certain records related to chaplain Clint Purvis and the Florida State University (University)
football program. If you do not maintain these records, please forward this letter to the
appropriate records custodian and inform us that you have done so.

For the purposes of this request, Chaplain refers to any of the chaplains predecessors,
successors, assistants, co-chaplains, or anyone who fills the role of spiritual or religious
counselor; Football Program means the University football team, which includes all coaches
and football personnel, paid or unpaid, who regularly access the teams facilities; records,
communications, or similar terms are meant to include, but not be limited to emails.

Pursuant to the Florida Sunshine Law, Fla. Stat. 119.01, I hereby request the following records,
from 2010 to the present:

1. All Football Program, University, or Athletic Department policies concerning coach or
clergy-led prayers for student athletes; this includes any policies regarding restrictions on
coach or clergy-led prayers before athletic competitions, practices, or team functions;

2. All Football Program, University, or Athletic Department schedules, notices, memos,
emails, or announcements related to religious services, prayer gatherings, bible studies,
Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, or other religious activities in which the
Chaplain was involved;

3. All communications, including but not limited to email, between Football Program staff
and the Chaplain concerning the scheduling, planning, advertisement, or sponsoring of
religious services, prayer gatherings, bible studies, bible distributions, or other religious
activities for football players, staff, or their families;

2
4. All Football Program, University, or Athletic Department records related to the
Chaplains travel with the football team. This includes all travel plans, itineraries, and
financial records, including any plane tickets, meals, or hotel stays arranged by the
Football Program, University, or Athletic Department;
5. All Football Program, University, or Athletic Department records related to financial
payments or reimbursements made to the Chaplain;
6. All Football Program, University, or Athletic Department job postings, or job
descriptions concerning Football Program chaplains, or any other position primarily
revolving around the spiritual development of football players; and
7. Any other Football Program, University, or Athletic Department records related to the
Chaplains official or unofficial football team duties or activities.
Please respond to this request without delay as required under Florida law. If more time is
needed to gather information responsive to one or more of the items above, please indicate that
in your response. If you choose to deny any part of this request, please provide a written
explanation of the denial including any references to statutory exemptions or case law upon
which you rely. If any of these records are available electronically, they may be e-mailed to
aseidel@ffrf.org.
FFRF is a 501(c)3 non-profit that works to ensure government bodies comply with the First
Amendment. As a non-profit working for the public interest, we request any fees associated with
this request be waived or, at the very least, discounted.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. Please feel free to contact me with any
questions, concerns, or clarifications at aseidel@ffrf.org or 608-256-8900.
Sincerely,
Andrew Seidel
Staff Attorney
FREEDOM FROM RELIGION foundation
P.O. Box 750 . MADI SO N. W I 5370 1 . (608) 256-8 9 00 . WWW. F FRF . OR G
SENT VIA MAIL & EMAIL to jeli shw!fsu.edu
November 27, 2012
Ms. Jill Elish
Interim Director
Florida State University
News and Research Communications
008 Westcott Bldg.
Tallahassee FL 32306-1430
Re: Sunshine Law Records Request
Dear Ms. Elish:
According to the FSU website (http: //www. news.fsu.edu/For-Repo11ers/Publ ic-Records-
Requests), public records requests should be directed to your office. If the website is
inc01Tect, please forward this records request to the appropriate person or office.
I understand that Florida State University employs Mr. Clint Purvis as team chaplain for
the football and baseball teams and possibly other team sports as well. Pursuant to the
Florida Sunshine Law (Fl. Stat. 11 9), I request the following records:
1) A copy of any agreements between Purvis and Florida State University (or any
division or subsidiary thereof) relating to employing or accepting Purvis as a
volunteer since 1988.
2) Any copies of relevant records, including but not limited to emails, from the past
five years relating to costs associated with employing or accepting Purvis as a
volunteer including, but not limited to, airfare or other travel, lodging, and meals.
If your office does not maintain these public records, please let me know the proper
custodians of these records. If any records are avai I able in electronic fo1mat, they may be
emai led to andrew@ffrf.org.
Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter. Please feel free to
contact me with any questions, concerns or clarifications.
Sincerely,
~ 5 1
Andrew L. Seidel
Staff Attorney
Dan Barke r and Annie Lauri e Gaylor, Co-Prt!sidmts
THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
GENERAL COUNSEL
Caroly11 A. Egan
December 21, 2012
Andrew L. Seidel, Esq.
Freedom From Religion Foundation
P.O. Box 750
Madison, Wisconsin 53701
Re: November 27, 2012 letter
Dear Mr. Seidel:
JAN 0 8 20i3
This letter responds to your correspondence to Dr. Eric Barron, dated November 27, 2012. On
behalf of Dr. Barron and Florida State University ("FSU") thank you for your letter and the
opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about FSU's relationship with Mr. Clint Purvis.
Mr. Purvis is not an employee of FSU. He serves as a volunteer advisor to student-athletes who
seek his counsel. In his 24-year association with the FSU football team, Mr. Purvis has
supported players of all faiths and no faith, providing appropriate guidance and directing them to
appropriate resources when contacted. He holds master' s degrees in counseling and psychology
and utilizes those skills when working with student-athletes far more than any religious-based
training. When his counsel is sought by student-athletes, Mr. Purvis' longtime presence in the
Tallahassee community provides him a unique ability to connect players who seek religious
guidance with churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples in the area, as well as non-religious
resources in which they may express interest. At no time does Mr. Purvis approach players,
recruits, or family members in his advisory role. Rather, he responds suitably to requests or
inquiries from student-athletes and others who seek him out.
There is no evidence that Mr. Purvis or any FSU coaches proselytize or discuss religion absent a
request from a student-athlete to engage in such discussion, as you suggested. Mr. Purvis does
not lead team prayers, and participation in player-led prayer is strictly voluntary. He does not
recruit players or accompany coaches on recruitment visits. Though it is not appropriate for me
to comment on the private beliefs of any particular student-athlete, there is no basis for your
conclusion that either of the players named in your letter--or any other players or students, for
that matter-were coerced, proselytized, or compelled in any way to pray or briefly meditate
with Mr. Purvis or any of the coaches.
My office has reviewed the case law you cited, none of which involves collegiate athletics, and is
confident that FSU' s relationship with Clint Purvis does not violate any applicable Jaws or
212 Wesrcort, 222 Sourh Copeland Street, P.O. Box 3060000, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1470
850.644.3300 Fax 850.644.8973 www.fsu. edu
Andrew L. Seidel, Esq.
December 21, 2012
Page 2
unnecessarily entangle religion and public education. Still, we have taken this opportunity to
more clearly define Mr. Purvis' role at FSU and engaged the First Baptist Church to ensure that
their website accurately describes that role. Again, I thank you for your letter and wish you a
good new year.
Sincerely,

l lfi)L6--v:'x
Carol;n Egan CU
General Counsel
Cc: Dr. Eric Barron
Randy Spetman, Director of Athletics