My colleague, Jordan Lorence, wrote a blog about the recent prayers that took place on the Penn State Nittany Lions’ football field before last Saturday’s game. In it he was surprised to see that no groups on the left had come out and criticized this event. His very logical conclusion was that even those groups would have the public relations sense not to criticize prayers that were lifted up over such a tragedy as has been recently exposed. Sorry, Jordan, you not only spoke to soon, but you also assumed that such groups would have the common sense or decency to let it go. No such luck.
Just today, I came across a press release sent out by our atheist friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). Can you guess what it was about? Yep. The prayers offered at the football game. Apparently not too worried about the public relations debacle that the objection presents, the FFRF had some harsh words for the two schools. Before it lashed out at those involved, it made clear that it spoke for its 17,000 members across the country, 600 of which were in Pennsylvania. Of course, FFRF does not speak for the 100,000+ at the stadium or the millions of viewers on television that did not object to the prayers.
Attempting to capitalize on a statement made by one of the coaches that the decision to pray was a “no-brainer” given the circumstances, FFRF retorted that “the coaches failed to use their [brains].” A bit childish, if you ask me. But that’s not all. In an amazing display of irony, FFRF quotes from the Bible. They claim that Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount support their claim that to pray publicly is to engage in “rank hypocrisy.” First, let me say that I am glad to see that the FFRF is reading the Bible, or at least part of it. But it is a bit odd to say that you don’t believe what the Bible says, but yet quote it in an attempt to prove your point. FFRF’s reliance upon this scripture is, unsurprisingly, mistaken. This passage is not condemning public prayer—just read Daniel. It is condemning those who pray publicly just to bring attention to themselves. It addresses the condition of the heart, not the prayer. So was everyone praying really just grandstanding–not actually caring about those victims whom they prayed for–but merely trying to look religious? I doubt it. FFRF should stick to what it does best, misinterpreting the Constitution, rather than misinterpreting the Bible.
One final thought. Does it violate the so-called separation of church and state to have a prayer before a collegiate sports event that anyone can participate in, or not. Don’t think so. Was anyone coerced to participate? Nope. It’s quite incredible to claim that the Founding Fathers were drafting a document forbidding any “government” participation in prayer while they were engaging in it themselves. But don’t bother with the facts. According to the FFRF, our Constitution is a living and breathing document that evolves into whatever we (or, a few of us, at least) want it to say. But that’s a whole other post.