Fields are for play, not for prayer – Greeley Tribune

Growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s, my mother was forced to pray the Lord’s Prayer every morning at her public school in Buffalo, New York.

Many people do not know that the “Our Father” is actually a Christian prayer. It appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. My mother, who was Jewish, resented this forced prayer until her death.

I attended a Connecticut public school in the 1970’s and 1980’s and was never forced to pray.

But the US Supreme Court, backed by the Christian right, seems to want to take us back to my mother’s youth. The court ruled 6-3 in late June that a Washington state school district violated the rights of an assistant coach by firing him for praying after games at the 50-yard line.

In all of my recreational and school sports time, I never heard a prayer before, during, or after any of my games. That all changed when I moved to North Carolina for grad school and began covering high school sports for a local newspaper.

Before a softball game in a rural school district, the coach asked one of the players to lead a prayer. The whole team prayed in Jesus name.

I was amazed to say the least.

My first thought was what would happen if there was a non-Christian player on the team. Would she protest? Or would she just shut up and hope not to make a scene? Would she grow up holding grudges like my mother? Would she end up leaving the team because she felt left out? And what if she refused to participate in prayer? Wouldn’t the coach play them that often? Would her teammates avoid her?

I have the same thoughts now as I reflect on the recent SCOTUS decision. I’m sure he tells his players not to join his prayers.

But what if they’re too shy or scared to say no? And what if they refuse and get benched or lose friends? And what happens when the coach puts in a good word for a scholarship or an interview?

I don’t think I really understand why people feel the need to pray on the pitch. We have places of worship where we can pray. We can pray at home as much as we want. We can pray as we drive to the game and as we drive home. We can always pray silently without kneeling or making a fuss about it.

Why do people need to display their prayer for all to see?

I believe in God and pray regularly, but as a professor at a public university I would never pray in front of my class. Forgoing prayer at work is not difficult for me. I wonder why so many coaches cannot separate their religion from their work.

What would happen if a Muslim coach employed by a Christian-majority public school prayed on the field before or after a game? Or when a Wiccan teacher in a predominantly Christian school started a class with a Wiccan prayer?

I’m not saying I endorse such things, but somehow I don’t think that’s what the Christian Right – or SCOTUS – hopes.

I only wish my mother was alive to see something like this.

— Lynn Klyde-Allaman is a professor of journalism at the University of Northern Colorado. She is currently writing memoirs. Fields are for play, not for prayer – Greeley Tribune

James Brien

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