If there’s any religion in the South that’s more popular than Protestantism, it’s football, and the two have always been intertwined. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that claims 22,700 members, wants to separate church and state—and church and pigskin.
The FFRF issued a report last month singling out 20 mostly Southern universities for employing chaplains, which the group says is unconstitutional. Among them is the University of Georgia.
FFRF identifies Kevin “Chappy” Hynes, Coach Mark Richt’s brother-in-law, as the Bulldogs’ chaplain, although other sources indicate he is actually employed by the nonprofit Fellowship of Christian Athletes, rather than the university or its athletic association (which is not taxpayer-funded). FFRF asked UGA President Jere Morehead to eliminate the position of chaplain. The group also criticized Richt for holding an FCA fundraiser at the Butts-Mehre building.
Neither Morehead nor Richt have responded publicly. But Richt had this to say when the FFRF leveled similar criticisms at Clemson’s Dabo Swinney a couple of years ago: “When it comes to my belief system, I’m not saying it’s Georgia’s belief system. It’s just the way I happen to believe.”
[Update: Richt did respond to the charges on Tuesday. “We’re at a secular university,” he said. “I understand that. We don’t try to make anybody believe a certain way at all. Anything that has to do with the spirit is strictly voluntary and never has any bearing on somebody’s ability to play at Georgia. It’s always been that way.”]
Richt—who was converted by his former boss and mentor, Florida State legend Bobby Bowden—does use his faith as a recruiting tool, and it works. A poll of college football coaches last year cited him as the coach they’d most like their sons to play for. The question, for most fans, is not whether Richt ought to keep his evangelical Christianity to himself, but whether his faith makes him too soft to win a national championship, as Rolling Stone and Atlanta Magazine—which ran a feature on Richt’s religion last month—have wondered.
Food Trucks: The commission’s Government Operations Committee gave the go-ahead last week to allow food trucks to park on public property. Under a proposal the full commission is scheduled to vote on next month, six spaces on Washington Street and College Avenue would be reserved for food trucks from 7 a.m. Thursdays to 2:30 a.m. Fridays. (Thursday was chosen because it’s a popular day to go out but won’t interfere with church services and the farmers market on Wednesdays or weekend activities, while the location near City Hall is because there aren’t brick-and-mortar restaurants nearby.) Food truck operators would be able to rent the spaces for an annual fee of about $350. The law will also give the ACC Leisure Services Department discretion to allow food trucks in parks.
Sidewalk Inequality: Commissioners get more requests for sidewalks than just about anything else, but the county only has money to build a few miles a year, leaving a backlog of dozens of streets. They’re considering allowing neighborhoods to pay for their own sidewalks—but some people think that’s elitist.
ACC officials decide where to build sidewalks based on a formula that takes into account how many people are walking and the average speed of traffic. The proposal under consideration would let residents whose streets don’t meet the criteria or are far down the list of priorities tax themselves to pay for sidewalk construction.
The idea “so blatantly helps a particular class—people who can pay” and ignores poorer neighborhoods that need sidewalks, Link said at a committee meeting last week. “I agree with what you’re saying, but they are paying for it,” NeSmith replied.
Link said ACC should require residential developers to build sidewalks, which is already a requirement for commercial developments. That would constitute an impact fee, though, and such fees are severely limited by the state, said County Attorney Bill Berryman. Commissioner Mike Hamby suggested talking to legislators about it. “Don’t hold your breath,” Commissioner Andy Herod said.
Workers Rights: The progressive political groups Athens for Everyone and the Economic Justice Coalition are hosting a Rights of Athens Workers Conference Sunday, Sept. 6 at the ACC Library from 3–5:30 p.m. The conference will include a panel discussion, a Q&A and a fair with legal advice, union info and a living-wage petition.