Freedom from Religion Atheists tackle Football Players

In the film A League oif Their Own, manager Tom Hanks advises a tearful player on a women’s baseball team, “There’s no crying in baseball.” According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a group of permanently offended atheists that are also in a league of their own, there is no praying in football, not to mention “Hail Mary” passes to win the big game. Tim Tebow call your office.

The FFRF has now gone ballistic over the baptism of an on-the-field high school football coach in Villa, Ricca, Georgia. Attendance was voluntary and the students who attended did so on their own time and of their own free will. When the FFRF saw a video of the ceremony, it fired off a letter of righteous indignation to the Carroll County School superintendent:

“It is illegal for coaches to participate in religious activities with students, including prayer and baptisms,” attorney Elizabeth Cavell wrote. “Nor can coaches allow religious leaders to gain unique access to students during school-sponsored activities.”

They called the full emersion baptisms an “egregious constitutional violation.”

“I believe we live in a free country,” the pastor said. “These people that are trying to say you can’t do that -- well -- they’re taking away freedom. When did it become illegal to bow your head and pray? When did it become illegal to say I’m a Christian?”

Indeed. One would think that publicly baptizing a high school football coach, rather than threatening the constitutional foundations of our democracy, was covered under the “free exercise thereof” clause in the First Amendment. The irony here is that the FFRF on its website touts itself as “the largest free thought association in North America.” It seems it depends on what you’re thinking about to these thought police.

Expressions of religion in sports are not uncommon, from the baseball pitcher pointing heavenward after a big strikeout, to the singing of “God Bless America” in the 7th inning of baseball games after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Such expressions of religious liberty guaranteed by the Constitution are not always well received by those seeking to expunge all expressions of religious belief from the public square.

NFL quarterback Tim Tebow believed, as was written in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed, not by government, but by our Creator, with inalienable rights. Tebow believed his talents and opportunities, as well as his rights, came from that Creator, and for that he was roundly mocked by his secular critics.

Some 45 million people watched Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow complete that 80-yard touchdown pass play to Demaryius Thomas on the first play from scrimmage in overtime to lead his team over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's wild card playoff game.

They also saw him take a knee and give thanks to the God he believes in, an act that's been dubbed "Tebowing."

 The act has been mocked by comedians and pundits and derided by the secularists among us, those who've banned prayer from the public schools, and fought Christmas displays on public property, the words "One Nation Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and even the words "In God We Trust" on our coins.

Again, the FFRF has been leading this charge to impose its values on the rest of us while making that charge against those that think the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty means what it says, even going after expressions of faith from the pulpit itself.

A lawsuit filed on December 27, 2012 by the FFRF concerned sermons that are considered by the political left  political speech by tax-exempt organization in alleged violation of federal law. These sermons, which can comment on issues of the day in a religious context, are considered electioneering by the atheist left.

The FFRF sought enforcement by the IRS of the 1954 Johnson Amendment which states that tax-exempt groups, including churches, are not allowed to endorse political candidates. But the FFRF stretches that law to interpret churches taking positions from the pulpit in opposition to, say, gay marriage or the ObanaCare mandates on providing contraceptive coverage as support for political candidates, albeit unnamed, that might share that opposition. The FFRF asked the IRS to monitor and regulate religious speech.

Investor’s Business Daily, in a biting July 31, 2014 editorial ripped apart the FFRF’s faulty logic:

But is the Catholic Church "politicking" when it proclaims its "Fortnight for Freedom" dedicated to opposing ObamaCare's contraceptive mandate and the government's forcing schools and charities it considers an extension of its faith to include it in insurance coverage or face crippling fines?

Are Protestant and evangelical churches "politicking" when they participate in "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" this year on Oct. 5 to encourage congregations to "vote their faith," which they consider to be an exercise of free speech and freedom of religion?

The FFRF says that such events at "rogue churches" have "become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity." But doesn't the Constitution say that Congress can make no such laws?

The Constitution in fact guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from it. Thomas Jefferson, source for the “separation of church and state” phrase often invoked by liberals, but which appears nowhere in the Constitution, also said:

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man”.

That should apply to those who speak their mind from the pulpit or on a high school football field as well.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.               

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