Freedom to Pray is Upheld. Why was it ever Threatened?

High School Coach Joe Kennedy was fired from his job at Bremerton (Washington) High School for praying at the 50-yard line immediately after each game. The coach engaged in this practice for nearly eight years (win or lose) until local officials determined it to be a threat to good order. Namely, they saw this as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another.

If you are not familiar with this story, here are more of the particulars. The coach began this practice in 2008, taking a knee at the 50-yard line and initially praying alone for less than a minute. Over time, other players on his own team and eventually players from opposing teams voluntarily joined him after the game. The school, many years later, demanded he stop. In addition to defending the Establishment Clause, they expressed concern over the rights of students, particularly players who the school says may have felt compelled to participate or were discriminated against for not participating. The coach was offered a compromise (to pray away from public view). He declined this compromise and was then fired.

Coach Kennedy filed suit on the grounds his own religious freedom was infringed. The competing interest to the Establishment Clause is the Free Exercise Clause, the right for each of us to practice our religion without interference (this truly is an individual right defined by the First Amendment).

https://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/first-amendment-and-religion

The Free Exercise Clause protects citizens’ right to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of a “public morals” or a “compelling” governmental interest. For instance, in Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944), the Supreme Court held that a state could force the inoculation of children whose parents would not allow such action for religious reasons. The Court held that the state had an overriding interest in protecting public health and safety.

So, these are the two competing interests, both clearly stated and not hard to understand, at least on the surface.

The Establishment Clause says we do not have a national religion as some countries do (or have had in the past) and we do not compel anyone to be part of any religious institution or take part in any rituals or other religious practice against their will. In addition, we do not discriminate against others who refuse to take part in a religious practice or join a religious institution. The Free Exercise Clause allows each to practice their faith freely (or to choose to practice not at all). Individual religious practice is limited by only very rare exceptions when it might actually harm society or other individuals. These are two fundamental, bed-rock principles of our nation, ones that made our country unique 250 years ago, but are far more commonly accepted around the world today.

The question for many is this: which one of these two clauses should prevail over the other, the coach’s right to exercise his religion freely or others right to not be compelled to participate? Can the coach be allowed to engage in this practice if it harms others?

For me and other like minded folks, the better question is: does the Establishment Clause even apply here? Unless the coach is forcing others to join him in prayer, the Free Exercise Clause must hold. If intimidation cannot be proven, this is simply the free exercise of religion among the participants. The Free Exercise Clause does not limit us to particular locations. It doesn’t say anywhere but public locations. For instance, I wouldn’t do it myself, but you have the right to stand on the street corner and tell passers by what you believe in and what they need to do be saved. It may be annoying and ineffective, but it is allowed. A coach is clearly in a position of authority, but unless he is abusing his authority, he too is allowed to express his faith at the school.

Coach Kennedy originally lost his case in the Ninth Circuit, but after seven years of further litigation, he eventually won an appeal at the US Supreme Court in 2022, a 6-3 decision, with the three most liberal justices dissenting.

Here is a bit more from CNN regarding the details:

Separation of Church and State

As the coach’s lawyer states, this should not have been a case of separation of Church and State. In fact, this concept regarding Church and State was never incorporated into the Constitution, not even as an amendment. The words were originally put forth by Thomas Jefferson as president in 1802, in a letter to a religious institution. The Supreme Court has often referenced these words in rulings and for many separation of Church and State is synonymous with the Establishment Clause. Nevertheless, this concept has never been officially codified.

The coach’s lawyer correctly points out this case is actually the State versus an individual: the school board vs Coach Kennedy. The coach did not act on behalf of the State; he did not attempt to further one religion over others. The coach is clearly not seeking to further a theocracy which will dictate its own morality to American citizens. There is no such theocracy. This claim folks are imposing religion and moral values upon an unwilling public is consistently raised by those against the free exercise of religion. We have an individual exercising his own faith, not a church ingratiating itself within the state, attempting to assume the power of the state. The individual is standing up for his own rights while the state actually opposes his actions. For the state to prevail, it must prove the coach went beyond his free exercise of religion and unduly used his authority to influence players. They were unable to do that, so instead they claimed a sinister, unstated intent: the coach is imposing his own religion on others.

During litigation, the school board only defended the Establishment Clause.

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2022/jul/02/us-supreme-court-religion-church-state-separation

Rachel Laser, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the school board in the case, said the separation was “under complete attack” by the Supreme Court as it favors the free exercise clause at the expense of the establishment clause, thereby raising the specter of religious favoritism.

Ms. Laser’s statement can easily be turned around: we cannot deny an individual’s free exercise rights at the expense of the Establishment Clause, thereby raising the specter of denying religious freedom (as is still explicitly done around the world even today) . The coach’s rights, and the rights of millions of other religious Americans, is “under complete attack”.

As a Christian myself, living in am era where freedom and reality have been redefined, we see Christians as among the most discriminated in our country https://seek-the-truth.com/2021/08/20/what-is-freedom/. We are considered the prudes, the kill-joys, the purveyors of guilt and shame, the traditionalists holding back progress and modernity. Many do not like our points of view, so they seek to shut them down. We object to unbridled public sexuality and the murder of unborn children and are accused of attempting to establish a theocracy. From my perspective, cases such as this one prove the point. We applaud those fighting to retain the free exercise rights protected under the First Amendment.

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Cardinal Francis George, May 2010

In any case, we certainly ought to balance the two clauses which can sometimes be in conflict. When examining the individual circumstances of this case, how can one possibly determine the Establishment Clause is threatened? Who exactly was threatened by the coach’s action? Who was harmed and how? Where are the lawsuits against the coach for his unfair treatment of players? In addition, how can you avoid concluding the Free Exercise clause is threatened?

https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/supreme-court-joe-kennedy-high-school-football-coach-school-prayer-case/

Writing for the liberal minority on Monday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the Constitution does not authorize public schools to embrace Kennedy’s conduct, and wrote that the majority’s opinion rejects “longstanding concerns” surrounding government endorsement of religion.

Justice Sotomayor implies the coach must obtain approval of the school or his actions are illegitimate. This is how religion is practiced in the USA? When was this written into the First Amendment? She goes on to emphasize the Establishment Clause, but only the Establishment Clause. What government institution endorsed the coach’s prayer or endorsed a particular religion? Clearly, this was his idea, and his idea alone.

The dissenting opinion turns the Establishment Clause on its head. The coach must seek approval from his employer to practice his religion while “on the clock”? No. The school should remain agnostic unless the coach is threatening or unduly influencing others. Were kids compelled to participate? Did the coach take away playing time for kids who did not? Did the coach look askance at kids who did not? None of this was established. The dissenting justices and the school board, say the case is about retaining the balance of Church and State (something which is not even a legal provision), at the expense of the Free Exercise clause (a bedrock principle of our Constitution).

Of course, liberal media and the other usual suspects lined up in support of the school board:

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2022/jul/02/us-supreme-court-religion-church-state-separation

The court decided against government officials whose policies and actions were taken to avoid violating the constitution’s first amendment prohibition on government endorsement of religion, known as the “establishment clause”.

Robert P Jones, founder and chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute thinktank in Washington, said: “What we’re seeing is a desperate power grab as the sun is setting on white Christian America. In the courts, instead of moving slowly and systematically, it’s a lurch.”

Praying on the 50-yard line for a minute while everyone else exits the stadium is a power grab? Isn’t this just a bit of an exaggeration?

Conservative columnist George Will, writing in the Washington Post, has it right.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/29/praying-football-coach-supreme-court-decision/

Cue the alarms from those secularists who bring religious zeal to their crusade against the incipient theocracy they detect in every religious observance allowed in the public square.

Gorsuch argued that no reasonable observer would have concluded that the specific actions for which the school district disciplined the coach — brief, quiet and solitary prayers after three games — were the government speaking.

Dissenting, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by justices Breyer and Kagan, noted, accurately, that “students face immense social pressure.” Sotomayor, however, simply asserted this: The fact that a majority of his players eventually joined what had been his solitary prayers showed “coercive pressure at work.” Oh? The school district said it had “no evidence that students have been directly coerced to pray” with the coach.

Our cranky nation, with its constant surplus of truculence, could benefit from a smidgen of Thomas Jefferson’s live-and-let-live spirit. He was at most a Unitarian (understood as the belief that there is at most one God). As president, however, two days after he wrote the letter endorsing a “wall of separation” between church and state, he attended, as he occasionally did, religious services in the House of Representatives. (Services were held every Sunday in some government buildings.) He was respecting beliefs he rejected.

In “Notes on the State of Virginia” (1785), Jefferson had written, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” The court’s decision for the football coach should cause timorous adults, and the fragile young people they shape, to stop fueling today’s cancel culture and the demands for “safe spaces.” Mere exposure to another’s belief does them no injury.

The Establishment clause is not threatened here in the least in this instance. In the USA, it is under less threat today than it has ever been (participation in organized religion is steadily on the decline). On the other hand, the coach’s right to exercise his religion was clearly prevented and without good reason. As Christians move into the minority, free exercise will be more threatened. The claim is always religious theocrats are compelling the non-religious to go along, but this is an exceptionally poor example to highlight such a disturbing trend. If you cannot find a better example, maybe there is no threat after all.

Prayer after games was not a school program. It was not advertised by the school. The school knew for years and implicitly endorsed it. The school is guilty of establishing a state religion for the simple act of not shutting down a prayer of willing individuals? How is this related to establishing a religion? It is not. Is one religion favored over another? Clearly not. Coaches of other faiths were not prevented nor discouraged. That would be an actual problem, but others could have done the same had they desired. Their lack of trying does not implicate Coach Kennedy.

Imposing My Religion?

This threat from the State rings true to me because I continually hear claims I am imposing my religion on others. I offer my point of view which is certainly influenced by my religion, but expressing my opinion is not an imposition of my faith on others. I am simply exercising my free speech rights. In an exchange with a friend, I heard this same baseless fear of my imposing my religion on others:

Your definition of human life is based on your religious beliefs and not everyone has the same definition.  Why do you feel it is necessary and moral to impose your religious beliefs on others? 

Do I demand you or others make the sign of the cross?  Do I demand you or others accept the same books of the bible as my faith does?  Do I condemn non-Catholics who do not go to confession?  Do I demand Wal-Mart keep the Sabbath?  No.  I do not impose these tenets of my faith on you or anyone else.   

What about you? Do you believe that theft is wrong, for example?  If I took your car home without permission should I be punished?  Would your answer depend upon your belief in the commandment “thou shall not steal” or would it be for some other reason like we need common laws and beliefs to maintain a civil society?  

That’s extreme and that isn’t where we are today, and I hope that isn’t a future goal. 

You said I am imposing my religion on others.  I am simply saying that is not correct.  I believe in freedom of religion.  I have never compelled anyone to follow my religion or any other.  Persuade yes, but never impose.  You made a charge.  I dismissed it as ridiculous.  You still have proven nothing on this point.  Offering my view, even a moral one, is not tantamount to imposing my religion on others.

Demanding others follow religious rituals via legislation would be a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. Such laws wouldn’t last a moment in today’s anti- religious environment. The hue and cry over non-existent threats is so great, so what would happen if a credible threat was actually proposed? But more importantly, nobody is proposing such. This is a red herring opponents of religion (especially opponents of Christianity) continually surface.

Certainly, we can point to numerous historical examples of forced proselytization of others. Such have been imposed by virtually every religion at some point. We can even point to similar examples in countries today, but none doing so in the past or even today were bound by anything remotely resembling our First Amendment. Its principles are now part of our culture and a common standard.

Our founders were aware threats to religious liberties abound and sought to neutralize them. They experienced them firsthand. The First Amendment strikes a balance between expression of faith and imposition of religion upon others. Still, the Constitution is simply a written document that can be ignored, especially by progressives who do not feel bound by it; we must understand what it provides for us and support those principles when they are under threat. The proper balance is not always maintained, so when that balance is lost, as was done initially in Coach Kennedy’s case, we must speak and act boldly to protect our rights. Thank God for people of strong will like the coach.

21 thoughts on “Freedom to Pray is Upheld. Why was it ever Threatened?

    1. Who are you saying is bigoted? And what exactly is wrong about what is said? It is standard practice these days to label others in an attempt to discredit all they have say without ever addressing any of what is actually said by the so-called bigot. It is lazy on the part of the accuser, especially when the accuser has nothing of substance to offer themselves. I hope that is not your intent here.

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      1. No. You are wrong. I believe in freedom of religion, a bedrock principle of our nation. It doesn’t matter who is doing it. That’s what the first amendment says. It makes no exceptions to the free exercise of religion except if you are doing something which is harmful to others (which was never proven in this instance).

        I tell you what I think in my post. Why do you think you know more about me and my views than what I actually said?

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      2. Very interesting. It sure came off as a perspective from a religious wing nut. Maybe that’s just what I expect these days…

        So, if what you are telling me is true, then how is it you feel like this praying jackass on the football field is excusable? Acceptable? When the very act of doing so expects everyone at that football game to be a true x-ian, and/or to participate in the odius activity whether they want to or not. Let’s face it, this country is made up of way more people/religions than x-ianity.

        Any and every person at that game that’s not xian, whether they be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Taoist, Buddhist, Rastafarian Pastafarian, atheist, pantheist, satanist, whatever-ist, is forced to play along while one religion they have no interest in, gets its moment in the sun.

        How is it that this SCOTUS decision is not in fact supporting x-ianity over everyone elses belief or lack of?

        You see, when that happens, and I see it endorsed as you have, my first instinct is bigoted asshole.

        If I’m not correct in that assertion I offer my humble apology.

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      3. You use many pejorative terms for religious people: wing nuts, odious, bigoted, etc. What makes you so disdainful of religious people I wonder? Are we the ones responsible for all the problems in the world? Others say to me I am “imposing my religion” on other simply for expressing my view on a topic in the news: abortion, capital punishment, transgenderism, etc. I try to understand why I am bigoted for simply expressing opinions on such topics, but I never get an adequate answer from any of them. It seems to come down to any opinion which might be influenced by my religion or Judeo-Christian values is problematic. Is it okay for us to practice our faith as long as we don’t advertise it and don’t mention the Bible or that other name you are so loath to mention? We can have our opinions as long as we fully suppress the religious side of our nature when offering up our points of view?

        Getting back to the coach: what did he do wrong? You seem to be saying others are compelled to join in his prayer. I agree that would be a problem, but there is no evidence of that. The coach is in a position of authority as well. If he used that position to force others to participate (e.g. limit playing time for non-participation or explicitly ask players to join him), that would be a problem as well. If you read my post carefully, you will see I make this point throughout. This has to be free exercise of religion for everyone, coach and players. Otherwise, the coach is at fault. This situation appears to be only the free exercise of religion, nothing else. If I missed some egregious action taken by the coach, please enlighten me. But from what I can discern the school board, the media, the justices and everyone else on your side did not refer to intimidation from the coach. For them, it is all about the Establishment Clause which says you cannot use government institutions to establish a religion or advance one religion over another (it is ALWAYS about the Establishment clause for progressives). No religion or church is being established here. It is not even a close call.

        A few years ago I attended a few NFL games. The players did the same thing after games. Players from both teams would kneel at midfield after the game for a couple moments. I have no idea what faith they were or what was said. I don’t care. It is none of my business. It was clearly a ritualistic prayer of some sort. I just happened to notice. 99% of the people exiting the stadium didn’t notice. Nobody objected and I never heard any comment on this practice in the NFL. It seems to me the same situation with the high school. Coach Kennedy got more attention later because it was in the news and people just wanted to see for themselves.

        Major League Baseball has a lot of Catholic players and over the years I have seen many players make the sign of the cross after a hit. No big deal. That is their free exercise of religion. It may make others uncomfortable or nauseated, but such action is protected under our Constitution. You should not want it any other way. The alternative is far worse. Go to Cuba and see what they do for anyone who enters a Catholic Church on a Sunday morning. Look what happens in Muslim countries when you express any form of religion other than the state approved one or when you decide to convert to one other than the state approved religion. You can be executed for such. We have First Amendment protections for religion because it makes our country a better, freer place to live. We don’t want to give them up, and we should apply them equally and fairly or they mean nothing. I have no problem with you complaining about our free exercise of religion or labeling me a “wing nut”, but it would nice to understand why it is such a problem for you. What did any of us do to so greatly offend your sensibilities?

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      4. You see no one physically coercing someone to join in. No armed thugs in the background and everyone knows why they are there, but most of us know that’s not how it works.

        It is a societal pressure. Peer pressure. “if I don’t act like they do I’ll be shunned (and hoo boy the religious love the shun game) ostracized, beat up, or worse.”

        I live in rural Tennessee. Home of the overly religious babble belt. I am an atheist in a sea of red hat wearing, beer swilling, yee haw redecks. I never announced my ditching of religion here because I knew how it would affect my kids as they went through school.

        I tried religion a long time ago. You want to know what turned me away from religion? Religious people. That and the fact that there is nary a fable, a tale, a story, a proverb, an allegory, an anything in that damnable book of theirs that makes any sense whatsoever in a 20th century setting. Where we know humans don’t spontaneously get pregnant. Where we know people don’t live in whales. Where we know the sun does not stand still in the sky. Where we know the blowing of a magic horn 3 times does not cause walls to crumble. Where we know people do not come back from being dead without resuscitation. Where we no longer need a warm fuzzy blanket of belief because we no longer need fear the dark. We know what goes bump in the night. We know earthquakes, tsunamis, and weather events happen on this planet. No gods required.

        But enough about me.

        If that praying jackass had been a Muslim, There would have been a backlash and if you don’t get that, you need a long hard look in the mirror. So called good x-ians would have booed, yelled obscenities, maybe not all of them but enough to matter. The Muslim would be ostracized in their community, their children as well. A good possibility of physical injury. A good car keying, or egging. No we are not talking state sponsored oppression. Nope that would come straight from all them good damn x-ians.

        If you can’t see that, you might want to take a good look around the pews.

        Yes, the coach used peer pressure to get the kids on the field, and the people in the stands, regardless of their personal views to play along with the disgusting spectacle on the field.

        Freedom of religion also means freedom “from” religion. I do not want me or mine subjected to anyones religious nonsense.

        Your NFL and MLB analogies sounds a bit like special pleading to me. I do not agree or condone any of it. These people are getting paid to do a job, not be a public display of their religion.

        I don’t give a hoot what people want to believe. I would not take away your religion or anyone elses. But don’t expect me to play along with the public spectacles foisted upon me. I’ll turn my back and walk away in absolute disgust. Nor will I turn into a pillar of salt, (as if,) I won’t be looking back.

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      5. This conversation started out in a very suspect way, but it has turned into a nice conversation. Interesting. Thank you for sharing.

        I don’t discount anything you say regarding your experiences. Others who have turned away from religion have shared similar experiences with me. I have had a completely different experience than you and I come to completely different conclusions about “the way things really are”. Still, I think your words are genuine and honest. It’s just you believe things which I do not and I believe things which you do not. It’s no wonder we come to opposite conclusions.

        I live in NC. Call it suburban NC. I am Catholic and I have attended the same parish for almost twenty years now. Like many Catholic parishes, it is fairly large, several hundred families. I know many people in my Church, some very well. I attend Church weekly, go to confession and attend adult education as much as I can. My kids attended the parish school for eight years, and most of their true friends are ones they met there, ones that share the same values.

        We see the kinds of people you complain about. My kids complained about classmates, kids they think are far removed from true Christian values despite years of religious training, I suppose ones like you knew that turned you away from religion. Such people exist everywhere, both in religious institutions and in non-religious institutions. You can find hypocrisy, self-righteousness, holier-than-thou attitudes, lack of commitment, phoniness, and all the rest everywhere in our culture. You are just as likely to find such people in Congress or in Hollywood as you are at your local church. We probably have all been guilty of some such behavior at times in our lives. It is human nature for us to fail in such a way.

        It is unfortunate that many Christians are poor ambassadors and half-hearted practitioners of our faith, but that doesn’t mean the message of our faith is wrong. It doesn’t mean our standard bearer was not indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It just means we don’t live up to the standards set for us.

        Let’s get real though. Who in this world completely fulfills any meaningful standard? You must have some non-religious standard you follow in your life. We all need some set of values to guide us through life’s vicissitudes. Do you live up to that standard always? Do you cut yourself some slack or change the standard to suit your own limitations? As a Christian, I am called to follow a standard which is above me. I am unable to change that standard to excuse or ignore my own failings. It is a harsh standard which I will never completely fulfill, but my trying to better meet the standards makes me a better person: a better husband, a better father, a better friend, a better neighbor. I am not better than you or anyone else. I am just better than the person I might have been without such a guide in my life.

        We all exist in the same moment of time, but we are at different points along that path, some do better than others, some have progressed further, some keep falling down, but the point of our faith is that we keep seeking to improve. I tell my kids all the time: trying matters more than success. The only true failure in life is giving up.

        You say “most of know how it works”. You say societal pressure led others to join the coach in prayer. It certainly wouldn’t have led you or others like you to join him, would it? My parish friends and I would not agree societal pressure led so many to unwillingly participate. The people I know would not condemn or ostracize a Muslim who did the same as Coach Kennedy. Maybe religious people you know would do so, but not my friends. Furthermore, if the pressure was real, it should have been central to the case against the coach. As I said previously, I agree the coach’s actions are a problem if others were compelled to join him. But the arguments made by others publicly (the dissenting justices, the media, the school board) are that this is a violation of the Establishment Clause. They proved no wrong-doing from the coach. They sought to prove something else. They did not prove any implicit societal pressure to go along. Believe what you want. I would be in agreement with you if I saw such pressure at work here. I don’t see it. It wasn’t proven after eight years of litigation.

        Let’s face it. In this day and age, the societal pressure is in the opposite direction. Americans are less religious than ever. Those who follow their faith are seen as prudes or wing-nuts as you call them. People often keep their religion under wraps because they don’t want to be thought of in a certain way. Maybe they go to church because they feel it is important to retaining their position society or something, but then they go for the wrong reason and do more harm than good. That’s their own issue, not mine. I speak out because I don’t care if people think negatively for expressing my faith, but many people do care and suppress their faith when outside of church. In the end, I seriously doubt there was any pressure on those kids to participate. I might be wrong, but I don’t see any proof of it. You haven’t provided any either except to say “we all know how it works”.

        My experience is that Americans are very tolerant of each other. We have the most diverse society with regard to races, faiths, and nationalities of any country in the world. Many claim we are a racist and intolerant society, but I see the exact opposite. I see the tolerance of others differences every day at work, at school, in my neighborhood, at Wal-Mart, everywhere. I hear about problems mainly from the media and politicians, but I discount much of what they say. I know many who don’t practice a faith but are still good people. I don’t look down on them. I don’t condemn them. Some may do that, but that’s not what our faith calls us to do. I don’t see the Muslims practicing their faith as a problem. I think most Americans don’t either.

        If you are open to it, I would suggest a couple of sources. Eudora Welty was a popular writer in mid-20th century. She was a devout Catholic who wrote about the religious people like the ones you met. She exposes them, mocks them, shames them. Most of her writings are short stories and can be read quickly. In a “Good Man is Hard to Find”, the grandmother is the type of person most of us find insufferable. In the last moment of her life, before she is shot and killed by the “Misfit”, she finds redemption. There are a few moments of conversation between her and this hardened criminal. The “Misfit” has no use for religion and has abandoned it, still the grandmother gets him to admit things he has long suppressed. The grandmother goes to church regularly, but hasn’t lived her faith in the right way, and yet the criminal brings her to self-awareness just before shooting her. We think perhaps the Misfit too has been reached in some way and may be impacted subsequently. Welty saw these people very clearly, but she never lost her faith. Why did they force you to give up your own faith? They may have been misguided souls, but you should find a better way.

        Welty understood how life is. She saw two people who the world would recognize as failures bring each other to redemption in such an improbable way. How is that possible? Yet it happens all the time. People who have moved away from religion judge people like the grandmother and the Misfit harshly. You write them off for their failings, but you don’t see the whole journey. You don’t see opportunity for change and redemption. You have only your experiences, but there are so many other experiences you have never known. You haven’t seen the whole tree by any means. Folks come to redemption at different times or in different ways, some never at all. Jesus called the worst of his society to himself: prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, drunkards, etc. Such people have little going for them. He was condemned by the religious for associating with them. Interesting that the religious of his day hated him too? If you see many such broken folks inside a church, you might think it is an awful place. If I see them excluded from a church, I think it is an awful place. A church should really be like a hospital. We all come to get better and to give thanks for that healing. The people in the Church are a reflection of the society as whole, no better or worse. You’ve missed that.

        If you read anything of the bible, read Matthew Chapters 5 through 7. It is the sermon on the mount. You will recognize many of the passages: go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, love your enemy, you will be judged as you judge others, judge others by the fruit they produce, build your house on the rock, etc. Call it the “Christian handbook”. Its words are not all outdated for a modern 21st century society. It is easy to understand but hard to follow. Still, they are life giving words. You don’t need whales or magic horns or any of the rest. You need to know how to live your life today, and this tells you how. It is just as relevant today as it was in ancient Israel.

        You see, the main difference between people of faith and people like you is hope. We have hope for a better future, a better life to come. We can provide hope to others with the words of Jesus. We are not better people than those who do not believe, but we have hope. You have only this life, but no hope for the future. You cling to life as long as you can because you believe there is nothing more to come. People of faith can surrender to the end of life when our time has come because we know something better follows. Our world will never be perfected, human nature will always be prone to evil and will never change, the world will end badly someday. You and I both know these things, but what you don’t know is there is no hope for a better life to come without God. If you lose God, you have lost hope. You should find that hope.

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      6. By the way, where do you get the idea that “freedom from religion” is a protected right? There is nothing of the sort in the First Amendment. It’s not the church’s problem if you have to pass by it every day on the way to and from home. Nobody can force you to practice a religion (that’s what this case is all about), but we cannot possibly limit your exposure to all religion. You want to force all religious practices to be hidden from your view? That is an unreasonable standard and not one we have ever had.

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  1. I agree that we can disagree on some things, and I can even agree with a few of your points. We both live in a country where we can do that, and should be able to do that, even if there is disagreement. Like I said, I’d not take away anyones religion, (though I’d not complain if religion disappeared tomorrow,) everyone should have the right to believe, not believe, or lie somewhere in between. It is a personal matter, and a civil society should respect that fine line.

    I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, from some of what you tell me you seem a bit sheltered from the kind of religious folks I know, but we aren’t all that close to being in a civil society anymore.

    I don’t expect to be completely insulated from religious gestures. People are going to do what comes naturally to them. I do however object to prayer (religious thing,) on school grounds (state thing,) especially in an en masse, (as in on a football field,) situation. Where people of all walks of life are present. Or in any largish public area, say a food court in a mall, where religious people decide to make a spectacle of themselves. I can put up with a few signs of the cross, or a finger pointed skyward at a ball game. I believe it completely unneccessary and in no way beneficial to the game or the outcome, but I can tolerate that even if it rubs me the wrong way. Those gestures in no way expect, with the social peer pressure thing which I do hope we can agree exists, for other people to join in even if it’s nothing they had intended to do when they got there.

    Don’t bother trying to convince me of the good in religion, it is IMO far outweighed by the bad. I’ve been through that magic book from cover to cover. I’ve sat in the pews. I’ve listened to preachers telling wild fantastical tales with the crowd all saying amen. And I’m sitting there, inside my head, saying wtf? I simply cannot get past the point of selling out my own conscience and believing in things that require magic to work. Also people tend to overlook the murders, the genocides, the rape, incest, slavery, misogeny, the bears eating children, as well as all the other things I’ve mentioned, to savor only the few passages that appeal to them, and rest the entirety of their belief on the infinitesimal part of the book that suits them. No thank you. Been there. Done that. Found it impractical. Found I could not sell out the person I am, for the person they want me to be.

    I also know there are good people who are religious. I’ve met them. I respect them. I’ve been in their homes, I have broken bread with them. I complained not when they had a prayer before the meal. I was in their home, where they damn well ought to be able to do as they please. But the blatant hypocrites I’ve seen, far outweigh those precious few in my experience.

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    1. We have different experiences and have met different people. Our experiences shape each of us each uniquely. There is a lot I haven’t seen (been sheltered from) and a lot you haven’t seen either. I am just offering a perspective you might not have seen or heard.

      Your last comment seems much more tolerant than the impression I had from the first couple. I get called a lot of names like bigot, jackass, sexist, hater, etc. for expressing my views. It seems to me that I am labeled and motivations questioned simply for offering my opinion. Speak the truth and the fight will come to you. I do my best not to respond in kind, but I never back down from the challenge. This is the true meaning of “Turn the other cheek”, not the pacifistic interpretation most people have. Most people would respond to your initial comment either with 1) an “FU” or attack on you and your beliefs or 2) back down from the fight. Fight or flight are the common reactions to almost all confrontations. Jesus endorsed neither. You do not respond in kind if treated badly; you do not punch back, but you still continue to engage. Let them hit you again and call you more names. It is the third way that most people don’t seem to get. Like “love your enemy” it is just a bit too hard to accept.

      You may be right there are more hypocrites than genuine folks. I don’t know myself. But if so, it is true wherever you look, whether among the religious or without. You should see the same types of folks wherever you look; they are not uniquely Christians. Christians are just a reflection of the society in general. The misguided messengers should not discredit the message. Jesus himself said (again, in the sermon on the mount): But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:14).

      I have been to a few Protestant services in my life. Folks seem to like the preachers that raise their voices. He isn’t preaching unless he gets loud and forceful. This is not common among Catholic priests. It doesn’t help me to be yelled at, but maybe it helps some.

      I don’t say to ignore the rest of the Bible, but some portions have more meaning to a 21st century audience. You say the Bible doesn’t apply to folks today. I say that is not true. I gave Matthew 5-7 as a very practical relevant portion for today’s modern folks. It is concisely distills the meaning of Christianity in my opinion.

      You call it magic. Others would call it miracles. Have you ever heard of Fatima, Lourdes, or Guadalupe? They are three places the Virgin Mary appeared the last 500 years. Fatima occurred in 1917 and was covered by photographers and newspapers. There were 10,000 witnesses. Might be something else just to consider and look into.

      It has been nice talking with you. You seem like a good person and I wish you well. However, please be a little more kind to others who have different views. They may have good reasons for believing as they do. They are not all bigoted assholes. For the most part, I believe they are not compelling anyone to fall in line. Most people don’t want that much trouble. It is just too hard. I am an exception, one who never gives up. You wouldn’t fall in line in any case. Compelling people to follow you in your religious practices has zero chance of success. You will resent them in the end. Why would any sane person do that?

      You say some of the things I hear from other non-religious and progressive folks. You may not realize it but you and they are all influenced by the political ideologies, ideologies which vilify certain groups, Christians being a main target. You all say some of the exact same things, things that I am certain are not true, things that come from certain politicians whose main goal is to be re-elected not to enlighten you or solve any of your problems. Ask yourself why so many politicians are threatened by the Church? It has no army. It has no real political power. It just seeks to proclaim the truth. It influences people’s views. If its message is wrong, it will be discredited eventually. Government has their own version of the truth, something not that close to the truth most of the time. They are threatened by the truth. Shouldn’t we all want to know the truth and not be blissfully ignorant?

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      1. You umm, get used to the sort of brazen religious trolls Ive seen on the internet, it is easy to be a bit presumptive with an encounter.

        I must note that now you seem more interested in prosyletizing than discussing prayer on a football field. I’ve no interest in miracles, or magic books. I need no politician, not that I’ve ever seen one with similar views as me, to teach me what to think. I’m perfectly capable of making observations and coming to my own conclusions. Which is a trait that garners little respect from politicians or the religious. In fact I’ve never seen a politician that did not cozy up to religion, or use dog whistle phrases, to get in good graces with the religious.

        X-ians being a target? Have you any idea the murderous history of religion? Pot calling the kettle black I fear. Does not your own book call for the slaughter of entire peoples? The dashing of the childrens heads upon the rocks? Even the slaughter of all animals of a conquered city? Nevermind the many rivers run red with blood from religious wars easily looked up on the net?

        No, religions hands run red with blood throughout history. It’s a joke to call x-ians a target today. Especially when they (x-ians) enjoy the luxury of being the defacto state religion in the US.

        Which brings us back to prayer on the football field. With a religious rightwing SCOTUS our defacto state religion is now pretty much free to run rampant in the streets, trampling anyone with different beliefs, or none at all. We are moving backwards as a society, all while x-ians feel a nice warm glow in their hearts, with their newfound power in gov’t.

        It’s likely to get much worse before it gets better.

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      2. I am quite used to the brazen trolling. I get it even from family and colleagues of mine. I add your names for me to the long list I’ve already been called. Offering opinions makes one a target. It rolls off me unless I think they have legitimate criticism.

        I may come across as proselytizing. That’s because I never give up unless you convince I am wrong. I do enjoy the discussion too. I respect your opinions. You have obviously thought through things. However, I am a realist. I remember very few times when anyone openly admitted I was right and they were wrong, maybe on tangential issues, but never the main point. It just doesn’t happen. Maybe over time things will change, but I will never see it for myself.

        What more is there to say about praying on the field? I see nothing the coach did wrong. You seem to think any religious display in a public sphere is a problem. I can’t agree with that. I would agree with you if it were shown he abused his authority. It wasn’t even the argument made in court.

        You say you are not influenced by political ideology. I hear the same from others. You are influenced in ways you don’t realize. You use some of the same phrases that were not common a few years ago. I hear them continually. I am a bigot because I have an opinion contrary to the current political narrative. SCOTUS is a right wing tool. How many times have I heard that one? Thomas and Alito are the only ones that can be considered conservative. None of the rest are; the others have all sided at times with the three who never once fail to vote liberally. Roberts, the guy who upheld ACA and has abandoned us on so many other issues, is lumped in with that group. I don’t mean to insult you, but you are so far off target on that charge. You bring up the ludicrous “dog whistle” argument as well. I have been a conservative all my life; I’ve missed all these damned dog whistles. Why is it only progressives can see them when conservatives are the ones to follow them? Sorry, but I’ve hearing that one for so long and I still can’t believe how many have bought into it.

        All politicians cozy up to the religious? Are you kidding me? Is that why Senator Warren said pregnancy crisis centers torture women? That gets her in good graces with the religious of the country? Is that why Senator Feinstein said to Justice Barrett, “the dogma lives loudly in you”, referring to her Catholic dogma? Nancy Pelosi is denied communion by her bishop because she is in his good graces? Come on, man. Liberals are very much into the attack on Christians, even “good Catholics” like Pelosi. If it gets them a few votes, they are all in.

        Yes, there is a history of bloody religious wars. However, far more people have been killed by anti-religious regimes in the 20th century: the Soviet Union, Cambodia, China, etc. https://reason.com/2013/03/13/communism-killed-94m-in-20th-century/. Like I said the problems you see are reflected in the rest of society as well. They are not unique to religious people. The common denominator is human nature, which is inherently prone to evil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has no endorsement of war. I know of no other Christian religions that endorse war today. Vladimir Putin attends a Russian Orthodox Church. He destroys the lives of millions in Ukraine and yet he is nominally a Christian. That’s a Christian problem? You blame the Christian ideology for the failings of Christians, even when such people use religion as an implement for their own aggrandizement.

        Christianity may have been the de facto religion in our early history, but there are far more religions today. You’ve made that point and I agree. America has blazed the trail in accepting other religions, led by its groundbreaking principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I don’t know why you bring this up as a problem of some sort.

        We are moving backwards in history because progressives are trying to destroy all institutions, traditions, taboos, and common values in our country. SCOTUS issued a more conservative set of decisions this year than in any I can remember, but I see them as good decisions not a regression. Overturning, Roe v Wade, for instance is returning the decision to states and taking it out of nine justices, a far more democratic result.

        Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God indeed. It was a society that had degenerated into total depravity. Abraham negotiated with God for their redemption, but not one righteous person could be found. America, given the holocaust of 63 million children the last fifty years deserves a similar fate. Why should any of us sinners be treated any better?

        I feel no glow of power from the government. I have little faith in government. I want their power limited. I will agree with you on the point SCOTUS has far too much power. The Roe v Wade actually was a devolution of power, but you probably can’t see that. They returned the decision to the states and did not make the decision to ban abortions for all. The court 50 years ago decided for us all, a usurpation of power, undone by the 2022 court.

        Government generally is not siding with Christians to advance Christianity over other religions. You will have to provide more examples of this. One man’s right to pray at mid-field after 8 years of litigation is the harbinger that confirms all your worst fears of Christians? Come on, man.

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      3. “One man’s right to pray at mid-field after 8 years of litigation is the harbinger that confirms all your worst fears of Christians?”

        If that isn’t opening the flood gates, I don’t know what is.

        Progressives are the problem then? Really? For the record, I am a centrist. I don’t lean right or left. But what I have seen over the last 20 years, is the right moving so far right it makes me look like a far left liberal. So much so I have vowed never to vote R again. Ever.

        Interesting you see the opposite.

        Odd how we tend to see different sides of the coin. I’d assume general state of mind, and media/social media are the biggest influence. I do follow main stream news. I’ll bet a dollar to a donut you’re the Fox News and FB type.

        For the record, the bible tales have zero influence and zero interest for me.

        As I now have a better picture of where your priorities lie, I’m going to let this go. You do have a few points that as a fellow American I can agree with. However the apparent extreme right views you hold I find abhorrent and against my general tendencies. I can take a little religion. I can take a few differences of opinion, but I can’t do far right politics AND religion.

        Far right politics is pretty much where I have to draw the line. The world doesn’t need that much crazy.

        Respectfully

        SD.

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      4. Just a few observations as we wrap up this conversation.

        Your distaste for the views of religious people borders on unhealthy. It seems to be a prejudicial view. You can tolerate some religious people as long as they don’t have other views which discredit them. You judge the folks you are dealing with based on certain associations they have or positions which they have come to, not necessarily knowing or fully understanding how they have arrived at those positions.

        You say you are a centrist. Folks I have known with that moniker claim to be the most open minded of us all. They are proud of their lack of affiliation with either party. They say they hear the arguments on the Left and the Right and decide upon the issue based on its merit, not following the talking points of each party. Without even realizing it, you are beholden to many of the Left’s talking points (you have shared several with me). By that definition of centrist, I am one too. I believe the Democrat party has nothing to offer (almost zero) and the Republicans only marginally more. Neither party represents me well, nor for that matter do they represent most of the American public. My definition of centrist is one in the political middle, holding to both views of the Left and the Right. Using this definition, I am dubious you are a centrist. As I said, you appear to have been captured by many of the talking points of the Left–and without realizing it. You follow mainstream news. Perhaps that is the problem. They are among the worst influences in our country in my view.

        You want to peg me. You want to put into groups so you can determine whether or not I am one who has anything worthy to say. I am not a Fox News fan. Our TV is not even configured for it. I have no idea what an FB type is. I guess you think you know my priorities because I call myself a conservative. You have an idea what a conservative is and believes, but I am not sure you have a good understanding of what I am and what I believe, other than I believe religion has great value and I believe in the American experiment started 200 years ago. Without values and standards, previously provided by religion and American republicanism, we are doomed. I also told you government should be limited in power and abortion is a great evil. Maybe that is enough to peg me and fill in all the blanks. I see nothing extreme or dangerous in those things, but I imagine you do. If you want to turn anyone away from these extreme positions you should do more to explain why they are problematic.

        The Right is moving further Right? Which Right are you talking about? Surely you don’t mean Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, John Roberts, Greg Abbot, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and a whole host of political opportunists in the Republican party? The base of the party is far more to the Right than these folks. The Republican political class will take us to Hell almost as fast as the Democrats. The party establishment (which is most of the party) are moving further to the Left as is the whole political establishment. If you don’t see that, it is more evidence of you being sucked into Left wing political narratives (this point is repeated ad naseum on mainstream media). Personally, I think very little of most of the folks representing us in the Republican party. They’ve done little to earn respect.

        Here is something that may help you better understand me and help put me in a box you want to put me in. The one politician who I think is doing the most good today is Ron DeSantis. No, it’s not Donald Trump. His time has passed and we don’t need another octogenarian running the country in 2024. DeSantis doesn’t have the character flaws of Trump. Most politicians talk about what they are going to do; DeSantis does it first and then talks about it. What a refreshing change. He speaks logically, cogently, is easy to understand, and takes no crap from other politicians and the media. He does all the things that the Republican party establishment says will cost you votes, and yet he has grown the party in Florida. Florida is a solidly red state under him. I’m sure the Wall Street Journal and the DC political establishment will hate him because he does not follow their prescriptions. Conservatives in the base are looking for a real conservative; they can spot another Jeb Bush or John McCain easily. Liz Cheney or Mike Pence just aren’t going to do it, probably not Nikki Haley either. The base wants someone who will be true to conservative principles. If anyone other than DeSantis is nominated in 2024, I will be greatly disappointed. Another Trump-Clinton matchup in 2024? Great for ratings maybe, but not so good for us.

        Maybe you put DeSantis and me both in the far right extreme so you can completely write off as nut cases now. That would be a very shallow way to look at things. I don’t know if that actually is your view, but I have challenged you and you haven’t been able to articulate answers to several discussion points. You fall back on your world view and your disdain for those with certain associations without ever explaining yourself. You appear to dislike the coach’s actions because he performed a religious act in public. I see that as protected speech and have no issue with public displays, nor, as I tried to demonstrate, do most Americans. You also claimed the coach abused his power, but provided no evidence of this, only your belief that it is so and that “we all should know how things are”. That may be enough for the folks who agree with you, but if you are going to convince folks like me you have to better articulate your views. I am sure you are sincerely expressing your belief, but why do you hold those beliefs? I don’t want to live an echo chamber myself. I challenge my beliefs all the time. If I can’t explain why I am for something, I wonder if I am off track.

        I am a bit more critical in this comment because I think you need a bit more self-awareness. You seem like a good person, but you should challenge your own views more; make sure you can justify and articulate for others any that you hold on to. You are a thinking person and have articulated some points well, but I think you can do better. None of us have it all figured out, but most people reach a certain point in their lives where they believe they have nothing more to learn and so they can just spout their wisdom at everyone else who should already know the same or should listen to their great pearls. I never want to get to that point myself.

        I poked around your site and I see you wrote about the gun control issue recently. I wrote a couple posts on this same topic myself the last couple months. I will try to read your posts and see if we agree. I do think there were some real problems with the response to the Uvalde shooting. Many more lives might have been saved with a better response. I am currently engaged in a long conversation with others regarding the gun control issue. You might be interested in joining in and providing the centrist point of view: https://rautakyy.wordpress.com/2022/06/16/2nd-amendment/.

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      5. I just figured out FB must be FaceBook. Many years ago when it was new, I used it for about two days and decided it wasn’t worth my time. You missed the mark on that one too. I’m not a Fox News or FaceBook aficionado. Want to take more guesses?

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