Liberty Blessed America

Prayer at Public High School Football Games

Posted in Religion by Larsen Rogers on September 12, 2009

Football season has begun. Attending the games of my favorite high school, which also happens to be the school my kids attend, is an enjoyable past-time.

Living in the great red state of Oklahoma, prayer happens. It happens a lot. Despite my Atheistic rants and raves on my twitter account and this blog, I am actually easy to get along with out in public. I do not and I have not made a fuss about people praying. I am the only out and open Atheist in my families: biological and in-laws.

So I usually sit or stand quietly at family gatherings while someone says grace before a meal. I offer no objections. The only incident that has occurred was when some distant relative at a family holiday gathering asked me if wanted to say the prayer since I am the eldest child attending Thanksgiving at my parents’ home.

“If you want to say a prayer, then say it. I’m not participating. I’m just observing,” was my response.

“Well I don’t understand,” said this grand Uncle. “Why wouldn’t you participate?”

“Leroy,” my mother hollered. (Leroy is not his real name. I change the names of real people to protect their privacy.) “Don’t worry about it. Just say the prayer.”

My father who disapproves of my non-belief whispered to Mother, “At least’s he’s not gay.”

The point of this is that I am surrounded by prayer, often. So when I attend football games at a public school, I am not offended by a minister offering a prayer. My reason is that I do understand that people have a superstitious belief in prayer as a supernatural insurance to keep their kids safe during a game.

Football is a dangerous sport. My son, although not playing this year, wants to play football next year. I support and approve of his athletic ambitions. But I worry. I never played football myself but I watched my friends play and a few friends throughout my high school years had received some serious injuries.

Nobody died and no one had damage that caused a permanent handicapped. But there were injuries to knees, bones, heads, etc. that required trips to the hospital. So when my son plays I am hoping he will not receive major injuries.

I am well aware that praying to an imaginary friend in the sky does not prevent injuries. And I am also aware that hoping does not prevent injuries. But I do understand that those who are religious feel an extra comfort when a minister prays before a game, hoping that a message to their imaginary friend will encourage that friend to protect the players.

In conclusion, it does not offend me for a minister to prayer at a high school football game. It does not hurt my feelings and it does not change my Atheistic perspective. Some atheists are against prayer at a public high school game. I do object to teachers or principals coercing children to pray in public schools. Children should not be taking a moment of silence nor saying “under god” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

My only catch is that I as an Atheistic parent also has the right to say a few words or to have an Atheistic representative say a few words for me at a football game. If I am going to support the right of the religious to have prayers, than I damn well expect the favor to be returned.

If the religious don’t like it, they can sit or stand quietly. They are not required to participate. I would most likely offer a quote of comfort by Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, or Gene Roddenberry. But the point is that if I want to take a moment to offer some encouraging words before a game then I shall be allowed or no one shall be allowed.

Any thoughts?


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