The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

Americans United Issues Statement on Tony Dungy Appointment to Obama Faith Council

Church-State Watchdog Group Expresses Disappointment at Selection


Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed disappointment at the Obama administration's decision to ask former football coach Tony Dungy to serve on the president's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

"God & Country," the religion blog of U.S. News & World Report, said today that Dungy has been asked to serve on the council, but he has not yet decided whether to do so.

Dungy, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts football team, has well-known ties with intolerant Religious Right groups. In 2007, for example, he spoke at a fund-raising dinner for the Indiana Family Institute, a James Dobson-affiliated group that opposes gay rights, reproductive rights and separation of church and state.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United's executive director, "I am surprised and disappointed that Dungy has been asked to serve on the council. His view that civil-marriage law should reflect religious doctrine is not in keeping with the Constitution."

Added Lynn, "It is extremely important for the advisory council to uphold civil rights and civil liberties, and I am concerned that Coach Dungy is far from the best person to do that."

Dungy, in his remarks at the Indiana Family Institute dinner, supported an Indiana constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and suggested that public policy ought to reflect religious doctrine.

"I feel like telling people when they look at this issue of same-sex marriage . . . I'm not on anybody's side," Dungy said. "I'm on the Lord's side."

According to U.S. News, Dungy accepted the Indiana Family Institute's Friend of the Family Award and said he "embraced" the IFI's support for the gay marriage ban.

"IFI is saying what the Lord says," Dungy said. "You can take that and you can make the decision on which way you want to be."

"We're not trying to downgrade anyone else," Dungy added. "But we're trying to promote the family - family values the Lord's way."

Lynn said it is important that the advisory council not advocate views such as Dungy's that undercut church-state separation.

Concluded Lynn, "I look forward to working with President Obama and his staff as he develops his administration's position on the faith-based funding issue."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.