Hugh Freeze is a terrific football coach. He has taken the University of Mississippi from the lower ranks of the SEC to a contender nearly every year.
Freeze is also a man of deep faith who cares about his players and the Ole Miss family. Back in 2014, the Washington Post profiled the coach in a feature about faith and football in the South. (Hey, didn’t somebody write a book that included those topics?):
Freeze is one of the nation’s up-and-coming coaches, with a $3 million annual salary and a team ranked No. 18 in the preseason top 25. He believes two strong forces, football and his Christian faith, brought him to this point, and within the framework of both parts of his identity, he is able to teach all manner of lessons to young, impressionable men…
Players are not required to attend FCA meetings or participate in devotionals and team prayers, but Freeze encourages them to join him. On this day, dozens have taken him up on it. “I tell them or our position coaches will: ‘We have worship on Sunday,’ ” the coach says.
“I don’t stand over them, make them do it; certainly they hopefully see that it’s important to me and maybe the way I live and the way these other coaches live. Maybe it attracts them to it.”
There’s hardly a better place to see football and God meet than on Freeze’s Twitter page. It’s full of Bible verses and faith-based sentiments like these:
“Love never gives up, never loses faith,is always hopeful, & endures through every circumstance.”1 Cor 13:7. Pick someone 2 Love well 2day
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) March 1, 2017
Don't forget this weekend to laugh a lot with those you care for. Life is precious and short and today is a gift from God, who never changes
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) April 1, 2017
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) April 9, 2017
Pretty innocuous stuff, isn’t it? Well, not to the Godless Gestapo that is the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Those busybodies — for whom the phrase “live and let live” has no meaning — think that Freeze tweets too much about God, and they’ve issued a press release and letter to Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter demanding that Freeze and fellow coach Maurice Harris stop.
FFRF asks that the University of Mississippi take immediate action to ensure that Coach Freeze, Coach Harris, and the rest of the University’s athletic department are made aware that they cannot promote religion while acting as University employees. This prohibition on religious endorsement extends to social media messages. If Coach Freeze and Coach Harris elect to promote religion on personal social media accounts, their messages may not be published on the official Ole Miss sports website. Please inform us in writing of the steps taken to protect the right of conscience of the University’s minority religious and nonreligious students.
Last time I checked, the University of Mississippi isn’t accountable to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. And I’m sure the coaches are just shaking in their
boots spring practice cleats.
But seriously, lest you worry too much about Hugh Freeze, at least one advocacy law firm has his back. The First Liberty Institute spoke out about the matter to the Christian Post:
“Football coaches do not lose their First Amendment rights simply because they work for a public university,” First Liberty senior counsel Jeremy Dys told The Christian Post in a statement. “The First Amendment protects the right of Americans like Coach Freeze to engage in religious expression on their personal Twitter accounts. And our universities ought be places where tolerance, inclusivity, and diversity are promoted. The FFRF has resorted to intolerant bullying in an attempt to silence and censor Coach Freeze. At First Liberty Institute, we defend religious freedom for all Americans.
“We encourage the University of Mississippi to ignore the FFRF’s letter.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation can issue all the sternly worded memos it wants, but I seriously doubt Coaches Hugh Freeze and Maurice Harris are going to allow themselves to be intimidated. These atheist killjoys claim to act in the name of tolerance, but they invoke tyranny in their attempts to silence the truth — and they often wind up emboldening believers instead.
To borrow the language of the Ole Miss faithful, Hotty Toddy, Coaches. And God bless you both.