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Scoot: Football players pray, atheists complain

It is a common scene, and one that brings feelings of compassion to most – football players dropping to one knee, bowing their heads and silently praying for an injured player on the field.  Often the gesture of compassion includes both teams - as was the case Saturday night when a Wisconsin player was injured in the game against LSU in Houston.  Tigers’ Coach Les Miles and his players dropped to one knee, bowed their heads in a moment of thoughtfulness for the injured Badger.

Not everyone respects this idea of praying for an injured player.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation – an atheist group – filed a complaint against Seminole High School in Sanford, FL that accuses the school of leading a prayer for an injured player on the field.

According to an op-ed article at FoxNews.com, Todd Starnes writes that the controversy centers on whether an adult led the prayer for the injured player.  When the Supreme Court removed prayer from public schools – it specifically banned school-led prayers, since public schools are an extension of the government.  The ruling allows students to pray.

The attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation accused the high school of allowing a “volunteer team chaplain” to lead the prayer for the injured player – but the school says they do not have a team chaplain.  A school official says that there are no photos or videos of adults leading the prayer.

I understand respect for separation of church and state and I also agree that unless America is willing to allow prayers from every religion to be said in public schools – then banning prayer is appropriate.  Again – no one – including the government – can stop students from praying.

The sensitivity of the atheist group over the idea of praying for an injured player speaks to the tendency of many Americans to dictate life choices and beliefs on others.  This sensitivity covers numerous issues in America.

If students did drop to one knee, bow their heads and pray for an injured player – how does that affect the freedom of an atheist’s non-belief?  If  atheist players from the high school were forced to participate in the prayer for the inured player - then I would understand the complaint.  But if the mere sight of the players making the prayer gesture for an injured player is the basis of the complaint – then it should be denounced.

Respect for atheists should include respect for Christians and other believers.  There has been a growing tendency in America to demand compliance to specific beliefs and actions.  The demand – and expectation – of compliance defies the ideals of America.

I think it is also important not to judge all atheists by the extremism of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  I know atheists who promote the idea of “live and let live” and would not be offended by the activity of players praying for an injured player on a football field.   

As with any group – it is instinctive to define an entire group by the beliefs and behavior of the few within the group that attract media attention.  All atheists are not trying to take away your right to pray – they simply don’t want you to force them to pray and that seems like a reasonable request.

As a nation, we have lost respect for the idea that we all have a right to be individuals and that means we will not always agree with each other.  But when did that become a bad thing in America?

We should all challenge ourselves to end the tendency to quickly judge and try to convert others to “our” way of thinking and living since the spirit of America was built on individualism.

Photo via zeeweez, Flickr

Tags :  
Topics : EducationReligion_BeliefSports
Social :
Locations : HoustonWisconsin
People : Les MilesTodd Starnes

09/02/2014 5:57PM
Scoot: Football players pray, atheists complain
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