When religious fundamentalism runs amok, I love it when the overly-righteous get an unwelcome reflection of their own dogmatism.
Here in the Pacific Northwest (I live in Oregon), local newspapers have been running stories about a high school football coach in Washington state, Joe Kennedy, who likes to overtly pray on the field.
An assistant football coach at a Washington high school who prayed at games after he was told to stop praying was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday night.
The Bremerton School District placed Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy on leave after he refused to comply with district regulations regarding "engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty as a coach."
Kennedy has vocally prayed before and after games, sometimes joined by students, at the 50-yard line since 2008. But the practice recently came to the district's attention after complaints and the district directed him to stop praying on the field Sept. 17th. He was also ordered to avoid kneeling, bowing his head or doing anything that could remotely be seen as religious.
Kennedy initially agreed to the ban, but then, with support from the Texas-based Liberty Institute, a religious-freedom organization, he resumed the postgame prayers, silently taking a knee for 15 to 20 seconds at midfield. His lawyers insist he is not leading students in prayer, just praying himself.
District officials acknowledged that Kennedy, a devout Christian, wasn't forcing or leading students in prayer. However, they said Kennedy's actions are a violation of federal and state constitutional rights of students or others and places the district at risk of legal challenges or lawsuits.
I have no idea why some Christians think that God is pleased by such ridiculous displays of public devotion. Sure, God almost certainly doesn't exist, and the Bible is almost certainly a purely human fabrication.
But even if we unjustifiably take the Bible as a guide to divinity, it says...
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Well, Coach Kennedy has gotten part of his "reward in full" for being a praying hypocrite.
His actions spurred the Seattle Chapter of The Satanic Temple to make an entirely reasonable demand that they also be allowed to do their thing on the football field.
In permitting school-sponsored prayer, the district has created a de facto open forum for religious expression in accordance to the Establishment Clause of the federal constitution which prohibits the government from preferring one religion over another. Therefore, the Satanic Temple wishes to ensure their belief system has equal access to the football field.
The Satanic Temple of Seattle invites any staff or student of Bremerton High School to contact them to perform a post-game Satanic invocation Thursday, Oct 29th on the Bremerton high school football field.
Some students did. Which, predictably, led to some firey Christian-Satanic interactions.
About a dozen members of the Satanic Temple of Seattle, most dressed in hooded black robes and some masked, left Bremerton High School shortly after their arrival at a varsity-football game Thursday night. They came in response to the controversy surrounding coach Joe Kennedy, who was placed on leave this week for praying on the field after games but attended the game in the stands.
Students swarmed the fence where the Satanists stood outside. The group climbed the fence, shook it, held up crosses, threw liquid, and chanted “Jesus.” Some yelled at the Satanists to go away.
A few of the half-dozen students and teachers who invited the Satanists to attend the game in the spirit of free expression were allowed outside the fence, where they spoke with members of the atheist and agnostic group and thanked them for coming.
Temple spokeswoman Lilith Starr said the group was invited to protest Kennedy’s ritual of kneeling on the 50-yard line after games and praying. “We want equality for everyone,” she said. “If one group is allowed to pray, everyone should be.”
Absolutely. This isn't a Christian nation, thankfully.
I'd prefer that all expressions of religiosity and supernaturalism be kept behind closed doors. But if society is going to allow them in public settings, every sort of spiritual belief should have an equal opportunity to display its rituals, prayers, and such.
As we devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster like to say, "He boiled for your sins" and "Have you been touched by his noodly appendage?" This uplifting theology certainly deserves a place on the Bremerton High football field after games.
Accompanied by some tasty tomato sauce.