Group asks UGA to ‘bench’ football team chaplain (updated)

Kevin Hynes, pictured in 2004.

A national organization has sent a letter to UGA president Jere Morehead asking that the position of chaplain on the football team be removed.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a complaint against 15  football programs, including Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Clemson, Alabama and Auburn. The foundation’s criticism varied from school to school, but at Georgia it centered on Kevin “Chappy” Hynes, who is coach Mark Richt’s brother-in-law.

Hynes, who is not officially in UGA’s employ, uses the position to try to “convert non-Christians,” alleged the foundation in a news release. In its letter to Morehead, the foundation said UGA was exposing itself to “legal liability” if it allows the chaplain to stay in place.

“It makes no difference if the chaplain is unofficial, not school-sponsored, or a volunteer, because chaplains are given access to the team as a means for coaches to impose religion, usually Christianity, on their players. Under the circumstances, the chaplain’s actions are attributable to the university and those actions are unconstitutional. For instance, UGA football coach Mark Richt brought his brother-in-law Kevin Hynes to be his team chaplain. Hynes, who is also the FCA director at UGA, has an office in Sanford Stadium and receives two season tickets as well as sideline passes to all games.”

But UGA says that Hynes does not actually have an office at Sanford Stadium, or anywhere else on campus, nor does he receive any complimentary game tickets.

The foundation also pointed to an event in July of 2014 at the Butts-Mehre building in which Richt fund-raise for the chaplain position, as well as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. An authentic Todd Gurley home red jersey was sold off as part of the fundraising, the foundation’s release said.

“Even if FCA or other private funds are primarily paying Hynes, that doesn’t mitigate the unseemly entanglement,” The FFRF stated. “The university is granting Hynes unique access and influence, lending endorsement to his proselytizing.”

There was no immediate response from UGA’s presidents office to the letter.

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