published Friday, August 24th, 2012

Football and religion

Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines says district officials are reviewing a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that charges that Ridgeland High School's football program is violating the First Amendment rights of players. Such study is prudent. There's no need for a knee-jerk response to such a serious matter. Raines and other officials should objectively examine the charges and determine their validity. If they find that any or all of the alleged activities took place, the superintendent should eliminate them.

If Raines does so, the decision won't be popular. It's likely that a majority of students, teachers and patrons at Ridgeland are comfortable with the status quo and the football program overseen by coach Mark Mariakis. Popularity, however, is not the proper measure in the matter. Legal compliance is.

Well-established law says that neither schools nor school-sponsored groups (a football team certainly is in that category) can promote a religious message or endorse religious beliefs. The foundation cited several activities led by the coach, including team trips to a church for meals and Christian messages; coach-led post-game prayers; Bible verses on team apparel; Mariakis' participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; and pressuring students to attend a Christian football camp, that it says violate the law. If any or all of the allegations are proved true, the correct response is for the district to forbid such activities.

Compliance with constitutional mandates would not stop prayer or reading of Bible verses or attendance at Christian services or camps. It would eliminate, however, official sponsorship of such activities while maintaining an individual's right to pursue those activities at a time and place of their choice. The latter principle should be upheld.

Those who argue that school-sanctioned religious activity at athletic contests -- or graduation or other school events -- is acceptable are thinking with their hearts instead of their minds. They conveniently overlook the truth that public schools by design serve a disparate population that remains predominately Christian, but which contains growing numbers of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist students as well.

Public schools, of course, are funded by all taxpayers and therefore should be free of any school-promoted religious activity. Football and other athletic teams are not and should not be exempt from a requirement that correctly honors the nation's rich diversity and heritage.

The allegations made by the Freedom From Religious Foundation may or may not be proved true. Whatever the outcome is, though, area residents should remember that religion is inherently personal and private and that it should be free of government influence.

Parents and churches, not schools or coaches, are best equipped to provide religious guidance and instruction to children. Any effort -- at Ridgeland or at any other public institution -- to directly or indirectly promote religion and the Bible might be popular, but that does make it right. The proper, if sometimes unpopular course, is to uphold First Amendment principles that help assure government neutrality toward religion.

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Watch for letters accusing the people who filed this complaint as conducting a war on religion.

And then they'll demand that those people just leave.

August 24, 2012 at 12:27 a.m.
joneses said...

It is not about religion it is about the Hussein Obama Bill Ayers liberal agenda of total government control of every aspect of our lives. There are two things that you do not see in communist countries, one is religion and the other is a middle class and Hussein Obama and the liberals are trying to rid this country of both.

August 24, 2012 at 6:21 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Having met Mark Mariakis years ago, I think that it would be likely that this problem could be solved at a much lower level through interpersonal interaction. When I met him, he seemed like a nice person. While some people might feel pressured about the presence of religious activities, I think it'd be less likely that Mariakis would apply pressure with the intent to infringe on anyone's beliefs. Maybe the real answer is to talk to Mark.

August 24, 2012 at 7:18 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Last night before bed I prayed that Taco Bell hadn't used foot-washed lettuce on my tostada, the sun would magically appear in the east this morning, and that water would flow from the tap when I struck it with my rod (while turning the handle).

This morning my prayers were answered. Proof again of Jehovah's existence.

August 24, 2012 at 10:29 a.m.
una61 said...

Just have a moment of silence and move on.

August 24, 2012 at 1:18 p.m.

Joneses, too bad those "communist" countries you would probably name are actually just lead by people using that ideology as a state legion in order to cover for their abuses.

Not North Korea though, they have their own new religion now.

August 24, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.

The editorial makes some valid points. One big blunder, though, and it goes right to the very heart of the confusion. Personal and private are not the same thing. Many religions are personal (they involve deities who are persons, or they involve personal introspection or meditation), but hardly any religions are private in the sense meant by secular absolutists in the West. Requiring religionists to keep their beliefs and practices concealed from public view is an attempt to use the establishment clause of the First Amendment to violate the free expression clause, and it happens all the time. Privatized religion is a western, secular idea that privileges atheists and agnostics with the freedom to proselytize and influence public policy while forbidding religionists from doing so. It’s a pernicious sleight of hand used to monopolize the public square with atheist and agnostic viewpoints. Religionists could use some training in how to exercise its public voice more charitably and civilly. But government intrusion into matters of the free expression of ideas is quite dangerous.

August 24, 2012 at 3:39 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Prayer in which someone asks for anything, whether it be to win a football game or to attain wisdom or to be granted anything lofty, low, or in between is nothing but self-indulgent whimsy. If Christians want to prove conclusively, beyond any doubt, that prayer works, let them have a massive prayer fest, form a huge circle around someone whose arm or leg has been amputated, and then everybody pray with all the heartfelt compassion they can muster for that person's limb to be restored. If that person should suddenly grow a limb, then even I would believe in prayer! But of course, we all know what the result would be. Christians' only proof that prayer works is always based on subjective experiences that no one can really prove or disprove, on nothing more than a “gut feeling” they had or a seemingly miraculous occurrence in which coincidence can never be ruled out.

Still, if it makes you feel better, Christians, go ahead and pray. But enough of your pretentious public prayers already. Why can't you just pray in private, where true prayer (not the asking kind but the connecting- with- your- inner- being kind) should be conducted in the first place? Please, stop subjecting everyone else around you to be witness to your self-righteousness. It's rather disgusting, really.

August 24, 2012 at 3:52 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

"Privatized religion is a western, secular idea that privileges atheists and agnostics with the freedom to proselytize and influence public policy while forbidding religionists from doing so." -wwwtw

What BS! As an agnostic I want you to tell me how I or any of my agnostic/atheist friends can possibly "influence" public policy? Trying to get politicians to respect the findings of science and not bow down to religious quackery and myth...is that trying to "influence" public policy? None of us could even run for office and expect to get elected if the public knew we were not born-again Christians or that at the very least we believed in a supreme being who holds us accountable. That in itself is how invasive and insidious the Christian mindset has become to our culture and our politics.

You are putting a huge twist on it all. The problem is that Christians already have too much of an influence on public policy (matters of a woman's personal choice, their efforts to get creationism taught in public schools, refusing to accept the findings of climate scientists, the U.S. policies regarding Isreal, our pledge of "one nation under God," etc.) Agnostics and atheists are not proselyting or trying to influence anyone. Just making sure that Christians keep their slimy tentacles and nonsensical beliefs out of government affairs and public life is not proselytizing.

August 24, 2012 at 4:23 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

If prayer works, why do so many televangelists and their womenfolk wear toupees, wigs, have more cosmetic surgery and facelifts than Joan Rivers, and continually beg for money?

You'd think god could grow hair, remove crows-feet and bags under the eyes, and have the PTL, TBN, and the 700 Club goody two-shoes crap gold bullion since they're His chosen people.

Maybe He's too busy bringing death, war, disease, famine, floods, drought, and other pestilence to His creations He loves so well.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

August 24, 2012 at 4:52 p.m.

I have a question...what happened to freedom of religion? I do not care if the person leading the prayer is a coach it is his right to do so! Also I am positive That Coach Mariakis did not force any student to attend any christian classes, if the student attended it was on his own behalf. Also yes I agree parents and people outside of school could talk about religion with their own kids, but what about sex in school? Parents also should be the ones to teach that to their kids, not the school. In my 7th grade year I was taught how to put a condom on a banana! I do not think that is appropriate. To me that is saying its okay to have sex just do it the right way! Well no one is saying anything about that, but yet society can't see why 16 yr old girls are getting pregnant!!!! In my opinion Coach Mariakis had every right to do as he felt lead to. The students didn't have to participate!

August 24, 2012 at 5:28 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

thisgirlbelieves wrote: "In my 7th grade year I was taught how to put a condom on a banana! I do not think that is appropriate."

You are correct. It was NOT appropriate to put a condom on a banana. Condoms are only appropriate on cucumbers and zucchini.

"To me that is saying its okay to have sex just do it the right way! Well no one is saying anything about that, but yet society can't see why 16 yr old girls are getting pregnant!!!!"

Your teacher told you that placing a condom on a banana was the right way to have sex? That's what happens when you let Creationism into the classrooms. I also bet your teacher isn't having much sex.

You mean that 16 year-old girls are getting pregnant from bananas? Society needs to know that Satan's yellow fuits are on the rise! If you listen to one of Justin Bieber's songs played backwards you can hear, "Get a banana, put a condom on it. Hail Lucifer." Thanks for warning us.

Damn you, Chiquito Banana,for corrupting the morals of our children. I'll never look at a banana again without having lust in my stomach.

August 24, 2012 at 6:31 p.m.

Rickaroo said...As an agnostic I want you to tell me how I or any of my agnostic/atheist friends can possibly "influence" public policy?

[This is too easy. Come on. You can do better than this.]

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Freedom From Religion organization. They and their local pawns have been the subject of articles almost every day for past two months. The articles report their attempts to change policy at two area public schools and at the county commission. Similar policy changes are advocated by this and several similar organizations in communities throughout the country, as well as at the national level. They, of course, are free to do so, but don’t pretend that they ARE NOT doing what their own publicity says they ARE doing. Individual atheists and agnostics use public forums to advocate policy changes all the time. Perfectly fine with me, but stop trying to muzzle those with other viewpoints.

Agnostics and atheists are not proselyting or trying to influence anyone. Just making sure that Christians keep their slimy tentacles and nonsensical beliefs out of government affairs and public life is not proselytizing.

See your first post. Call it what you want, but you are attempting to persuade others to abandon their religious views and adopt your own. That’s pretty much the definition of proselytism.

None of us could even run for office and expect to get elected if the public knew we were not born-again Christians or that at the very least we believed in a supreme being who holds us accountable. That in itself is how invasive and insidious the Christian mindset has become to our culture and our politics.

Can you name a time in our history when this was not the case? According to our founding document, the Supreme Being is the One who entitles us to declare ourselves an independent nation. He is the source of our most basic, unalienable (because their source is above that of political leaders and documents) rights. And the Supreme Being is called upon to judge the rectitude of their intentions. “invasive and insidious”? I’m guessing you’re afraid of ghosts as well.

The problem is that Christians already have too much of an influence on public policy (matters of a woman's personal choice, their efforts to get creationism taught in public schools, refusing to accept the findings of climate scientists, the U.S. policies regarding Isreal, our pledge of "one nation under God," etc.)

And what do you propose doing in order to diminish that influence?

August 24, 2012 at 7:48 p.m.

Wwwtw, Religious intrusion into government operations is quite dangerous.

Thisgirlbelieves, it's quite easy to demonstrate the a person in authority has an influence upon those under it. Given that government cannot escape granting people authority for legitimate reasons, it's important to prevent undue exertion of that influence. This covers religion and other relationships.

But you are mistaken about sex ed. Not teaching it in schools doesn't, despite religious believers claims to the contrary deter sex. All it leads to is ignorance as the parents abrogate their duties or simply promulgate ignorance.

You can bemoan teen pregnancy till the end of time, but your personal discomfort with it doesn't establish that sex ed had anything to do with it.

And personally I could care less with the banana bit. That's an unimportant part of the educational experience. Try not to hyper focus on it. It doesn't matter.

August 24, 2012 at 8 p.m.

happywithnewbulbs said...Religious intrusion into government operations is quite dangerous.

Nice “argument.” America's founders were far more concerned about the reverse: government intrusion into the various practices of religion.

The most vicious totalitarian regimes of the last century (most of them implementing European secular ideologies) felt the same way as you. That explains the surge in religious persecution in the last century.

August 24, 2012 at 9:23 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

"Call it what you want, but you are attempting to persuade others to abandon their religious views and adopt your own. That’s pretty much the definition of proselytism." - wwwtw

This will probably be difficult for you to grasp, wwwtw, so unfocused and illogical is your "reasoning," but I am not attempting to persuade anyone of anything when it comes to their religious views. I no more care what you or anyone else believes, religious-wise, than I care about what Justin Bieber eats for breakfast. I don't even discuss my own non-religious views unless it happens to come up in the course of conversation, as it does here. And I especially do not try to get other people to adopt my views. But when Christians think that they have a "right" to inject their rituals, prayers, forms of worship, or their mythical and nonsensical biases into the arena of our public schools or government institutions, then I will speak out against such an IMPOSITION. I am not in the least trying to dictate what they believe personally or how they worship, as long as they don't do it in my face or in public places where people of varying faiths, or non-faiths, might be gathered.

August 25, 2012 at 12:59 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

wwwtw (continued)...

“...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” - Article Vl, paragraph 3, U.S. Constitution

Theoretically any agnostic, atheist, Wiccan, or Buddhist should not be disqualified, according to our Constitution, from running for office. And if running for some of the lesser offices in some of the smaller towns throughout the country, someone of those beliefs, or non-beliefs, might actually get elected. But anyone wanting to run for president today who is not a born-again Christian or at least an adherent of a monotheistic religion in which the God is the stereotypical daddy-in-the-sky type of deity, he/she would not even make it to the debates, let alone stand a ghost of a chance getting elected. They would be figuratively tarred and feathered and run out of town. That is the extent to which Christianity has become so invasive in our politics.

I'm sure that you don't see it that way because you no doubt believe that we're supposed to be a Christian nation in the first place. But you refuse to accept the fact that most of our founding fathers were not really Christians but deists – men of the Enlightenment, free thinkers who believed more in the powers and the merits of reason than in blind faith. Jefferson's ideas about God and religion were so radical, so different from the mainstream of his day, that most Christians called him an atheist. He was indeed not an atheist but he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus and his concept of God was one who did not intercede in our personal affairs. Washingon, even though he attended church regularly, was called a deist by his own preacher. Madison was likewise a deist and a vocal proponent of the separarion of church and state.

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceasless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.” - James Madison

August 25, 2012 at 1:51 p.m.

Rickaroo [earlier] said...As an agnostic I want you to tell me how I or any of my agnostic/atheist friends can possibly "influence" public policy? to which I replied “The articles report [the FFRF’s] attempts to change policy at two area public schools and at the county commission. Similar policy changes are advocated by this and several similar organizations in communities throughout the country, as well as at the national level.”

Rickaroo, instead of admitting that his earlier claim was baseless, responds with a straw man argument based on a (false) conjecture about what I believe. He then offers up a simplistic caricature of the beliefs of the founders and assumes he can substantiate it with a couple of out-of-context quotes.

And, amid a diatribe against theism, serves up "I no more care what you or anyone else believes, religious-wise, than I care about what Justin Bieber eats for breakfast." If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t feel obliged excoriate it. You may be the least self-aware person who posts in this forum, which leads me to suspect that you are often inebriated when you post.

“But anyone wanting to run for president today who is not a born-again Christian or at least an adherent of a monotheistic religion in which the God is the stereotypical daddy-in-the-sky type of deity, he/she would not even make it to the debates, let alone stand a ghost of a chance getting elected. They would be figuratively tarred and feathered and run out of town.”

“tarred and feathered” Sort of like your own hobby of tarring and feathering those whose beliefs you consider ridiculous. Pot, by now you’re well acquainted with kettle, so there’s no need for an introduction.

I never said that electing a non-theist was illegal or that it never occurred at all. I was simply pointing out that its extreme rarity today is no different that it has ever been in our history. You failed to prove otherwise. Atheists were extremely rare among the founders (Thomas Paine and few others). Those who were influenced by Deism (like Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin) didn’t hold to it strictly or consistently, as demonstrated by their repeated acknowledgement of and appeals to God’s providential work in various events of their day.

In his quote, Madison is referring to state denominations, not Christianity itself.

This is not a Christian nation officially, but in most every other sense, it is and always has been just that. To every historically-informed American, along with most observers from other countries, this is a rather obvious truth.

August 25, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.
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