Win for school sports and prayer


A Jehovah’s Witness knocked on my door on a Saturday morning, a stack of Watchtowers in hand, and, forgive me, I was a little rude.

Why, I wondered afterward, did this visit set me off?

Partly because, like all proselytes, her working assumption was that she knows better than the rest of us.

I don’t like it when people offer unsolicited advice about lifting weights at the gym. I sure don’t want to hear it about a major, highly personal choice that most of us already have thought through: how and what to worship, if we choose to worship at all.

I don’t, by the way, which is another reason I found the encounter so irritating. How would it go over if I went from door to door pitching my view of Christianity: that it’s great as an ethical guide but, beyond that, nothing more than a comforting fairy tale?

Probably not well at all.

Tom Lehrer, the 1960s singer-comedian, had it wrong when he said everybody hates Jews. From my experience, in this conservative part of Florida, a lot more people hate atheists.

Not that this causes me real problems. I usually just keep my mouth shut and wish that believers would show the rest of us the same respect.

So, hooray for Pasco superintendent of schools Kurt Browning!

Browning sent out a memo recently asking the county’s high school football coaches to refrain from leading team prayers.

It doesn’t forbid prayers, mind you, it just says that students, rather than paid employees of the public school system, should be leading them. Constitutionally speaking, this draws the line in the right place.

However, if I were a coach, even a Christian one, I would not want team prayers at all.

That’s because it’s no better for team-building than it is for nation-building, which our founders wisely recognized.

And that’s because, obviously, you exclude every player who doesn’t believe in the prayer leader’s god, or doesn’t believe in any god, or is just smart enough to see the folly of praying to a peaceful god when playing a game as violent as football.

For a similar reason, I’m not going to get carried away praising Browning’s political bravery. Yes, he took some heat. But what’s smart for coaches is smart for politicians, and Browning has staked out a widely appealing position as a devout Baptist who, when it comes to the public realm, is also a devout secularist. It’s a position that doesn’t leave anybody out.

And I like to think that’s the way the country is heading.

We’ve made some great advances recently in gay rights. Catholics have a new pope more like God’s golden retriever than his Rottweiler who has spoken up for these rights and, amazingly, against evangelizing. And though a recent Gallup poll shows that a lot of voters, 43 percent, would never vote for an atheist president, that’s a far lower percentage than just a few years ago.

Maybe a few more people are starting to get it: No matter how great you think your religion is, it’s yours, not everybody else’s.

Dan DeWitt is a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • The Beatles’ cry of freedom: ‘Money,’ 50 years later

    In early 1964, a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to hear the new Beatles album, With the Beatles. It had come out in Britain a couple of months before, but no one I knew had heard it, or for that matter heard of it. My friend’s father, an airplane pilot, had brought it back. It was just days after the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

  • It helps to have a hospital room with a view

    Hospitals are, by their nature, scary and depressing places. But they don’t have to be ugly as well — and there’s ample evidence that aesthetics matter to patient health.

  • Why the Islamic State (or ISIS, or QSIS, or ISIL) has so many names

    The Guardian reports that an influential Egyptian group has requested that Western observers make a crucial nomenclature change. Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, which the Guardian describes as “a wing of the Egyptian justice ministry … [and] a source of religious authority both inside and outside Egypt,” says that it’s not appropriate to refer to the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” that’s currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. Instead, according to Dar al-Ifta, we should call them “al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” or alternately QSIS. You can learn more by following the group’s “Call it QS not IS” social-media campaign.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category