West Marin secularists very disturbed that Catholic organization wants to pray

One of the things that profoundly changed my thinking about religion and about liberalism was contrasting the belligerent anti-religious atmosphere in Berkeley with the tolerant Christian environment I encountered in Texas.  This is not to say that all non-religious places are belligerently anti-religious, or that all Christian environments are tolerant.  However, it did teach me a very useful lesson, which is that secularists can be every bit as rigid, dogmatic, and prejudiced as anyone else.

What’s interesting about secular prejudice is that it’s nihilistic.  Christians want to bring you to something; secularists want to back you away from everything.

The almost random hostility that is aggressive secularism reared its head in West Marin recently.  The Catholic Youth Organization (emphasis mine) sponsors all sorts of sports here in Marin.  Sign-up is open to everyone, not just Catholics, but the CYO doesn’t pretend not to be a Catholic organization.  It crossed a Marin line, however, when it announced that, before basketball games start, it wants to have a prayer.  A very non-denominational, practically Unitarian, prayer:

CYO Athletics provides an atmosphere of sportsmanship for youth that fosters their physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual strength.

Although it is not mandatory, we invite athletes, coaches, parents, and officials to take a moment to remember that God is present in each of us as we come together not just as competitors but as brothers and sisters. Please stand as we pray:

God, we pray that our hearts be open to see your presence in and through sports.

We pray for athletes who, through sports, develop character and values.

We pray for coaches who place players before winning and value sportsmanship.

We pray for parents who love their children for who they are, not for how they perform.

We pray for officials who inspire fair play.

We pray in God’s name. Amen.

It takes a special kind of mentality to be offended by a polite and voluntary request to a higher being asking for character development, sportsmanship, parental love and fair play. Fortunately for blogging fodder, here in Marin we have those special mentalities.  While some understand that a private organization sponsored by the Catholic church is within its rights to ask people to join it in a prayer, others are up in arms.  Some merely express discomfort — a la “religion has no place in sports” — but some are much more aggressive in their hostility to the idea:

A decision by Catholic Youth Organization leaders to ask young athletes to pray before basketball games has touched a nerve among residents of the San Geronimo Valley.

“I understand that if we rent to one religious group, we have to rent to them all. But I still don’t like it,” said Richard Sloan, a trustee of the Lagunitas School District, which co-owns the San Geronimo Valley Gym. “I’m going to put up a sign in front of the gym: ‘If you don’t pray in my school, I won’t think in your church.'”  (Emphasis mine.)

At least Sloan is honest about his incredible prejudice.  Others are trying different tactics, including the claim that many parents had no idea the Catholic Youth Organization was actually Catholic; that no one needs to ask God for help with pushy parents because there are only a few of them out there in West Marin; and that West Marin’s varying faiths are so delicately balanced against each other that no end of chaos could result because of this bland little prayer for good sportsmanship.

In a funny way (or maybe it’s not so funny at all), this secularist hostility and its aggressive efforts to shut down all forms of privately expressed faith in the public square reminds me of a problem I’ve always had with Islam:  namely the Islamists’ incredible fear that their religion can’t compete, so that the only way to preserve the faith is to kill (really kill, with sword, stone, hangman’s rope and bomb) the competition.

I like having a marketplace of religion.  This marketplace is not one in which practitioners of one religion coerce, kill, harass, humiliate, stone or demean members of other faiths.  Instead, it’s a marketplace in which various religions generously and often lovingly make their activities and rituals available to others, secure in the belief that there’s a viable product, one that builds, rather than destroys.  I’d be a lot happier if the secularists would have the same approach, rather than aping the Islamists, by trying to shut everyone else down.

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  • jj

    No, Mr. Sloan, you won’t think anywhere.  It’s apparent ‘thinking’ is not part of your act.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    They are allied with Islam. Why would anyone expect them to use different tactics.

  • Charles Martel

    Sloan exemplifies what passes for “progressive” thinking in Marin. Mostly this consists of repeating clever bumper sticker slogans picked up from Democracy Now! or KPFA, the regional Marxist radio station. 
    I do some freelance writing for a West Marin magazine publisher who actually believes is horoscopes. She thinks religious people are weird for believing in a higher power. That is unless the higher power doesn’t give a sh’ite about your moral life, just your timing. 
    Islam delenda est.

  • Gringo

    I have never been a churchgoer. I see no point in forbidding the expression of religious faith, such as CATHOLIC YOUTH ORGANIZATION games being prefaced with a prayer.  In fact to do so goes expressly against the First Amendment.  I am uncomfortable with the militant secularism of the likes of Mr. Sloan’s.  It would appear to me that while  Mr. Sloan does not exercise his thinking faculties inside the confines of the church, it is rather unlikely that he gives his thinking faculties much exercise anywhere- inside or outside a church.
     When I was a child, the Unitarians in my hometown held Sunday services inside a local elementary school. [They later built a church.] Would Mr. Sloan have considered this  unjustified state support of religion? Perhaps Mr. Sloan would have been mollified by the fact that Unitarians were much more likely to discuss the admission of Red China to the UN – a hot-ticket  liberal topic of the era- than to discuss the Second Coming. 

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….

  • Gringo

    Perhaps Mr. Sloan would have preferred a child’s version of The Man’s Prayer, which ended each episode of the Red Green Show.
    I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.
    For Marin: I am an affluent worm of white privilege but I can be guilty about it, I guess. Just don’t  let them in my school. ( Recalling Tom Leherer and National Brotherhood Week)

  • MacG

    From Mother Jones magazine: “THERE IS NO DOGMA MORE PREVALENT within American high culture than that smart people outgrow God,” said Douglas Henry, an assistant professor of philosophy and director of Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning. “The more educated, the more erudite, the more discerning and wise one is, the less one is inclined to be a deeply pious Christian, the thinking goes. In higher education, this dogma gets expressed in the axiom that academic excellence and Christian faithfulness are incompatible.”  
    The above article is an interesting read regrading how do Christian higher ed institutions maintain their Christian identity or not EG Princeton.
    MR Sloan embodies the quote from the article even though it is decidedly a lower ed institution.  The first problem is that it is not HIS school.  It is as much mine as it is his.  His assertion that if they rent to one religious group they have to rent to all is a bit off.  Equal Access provides that if they rent to ANY group they have to rent to all – religious or not.  In this economy I am surprised that he is biting the hand that feeds him through rental fees.  Maybe that’s the ultimate rub, they HAVE to rent to make up holes in their budget because all of those rich people need a law to pry it out of their bank accounts (can’t you hear the seething?)
    “I’m going to put up a sign in front of the gym: ‘If you don’t pray in my school, I won’t think in your church.’”  A lose, no gain deal as I doubt that he would set foot in a church to start with.  How dumb does he think we are anyway? :)
    I am sure he would lead the charge if he overheard “If you don’t drink from my white water fountain I won’t spit on your colored one” but cognitive dissonance reigns again (the God deniers call this Hypocrisy when they see inconsistency of those professing a religious way).  He should be reprimanded or recalled for his statement made in the public’s trust (they voted him in) about his public expression of his private views just like a Christian teacher would be called on the carpet for promoting Creationism.  Once again we see it’s OK to denigrate people of faith from an official platform.
    Lest anyone get the idea that I would repel Mr Sloan from my church they would be wrong.  He would be more than welcome and if he should hang around enough he might even hear a decent discussion on macrobiotics, the Arts, finance etc. between people who have varied degrees or not, run the political, social and financial gamuts but share the common bond of faith in the Creator and his son.

  • JKB

    There does seem to be a lot of “atheists” who say they don’t believe in God but seem to be terribly afraid God may believe in them.  To wit, they must seek to prevent others from any association with God lest their belief crumble under the pressure.

    Same with Islam, who use extreme violence, and some Christians, who use loud argument, should anyone even entertain a question.  If your faith cannot stand an outsider questioning God, then i suspect they fear their faith will be revealed as a put on rather than a belief.  

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The simplest answer to this conundrum is to cut (or execute) all government functions relating to education, schools, and so on. Make it entirely private investment. All the taxes collected from parents for schools should be cut out, not redirected. Then when there is no government interference in education, there will be no “favoring” of religious conduct by the government should prayers be held in school.

    The only answer to Leftist complaints is to charge faster ahead, full steam, and knock them over with extreme prejudice. Backing up or compromising has never and will never work with their evil. 

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    A simple way to expose Leftist hypocrisy is to publicly ask them if they support the First Amendment on government staying away from religious practices. Then ask them how far government should go to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves. Then say something like “government takes care of educating the ignorant, so by your words, you’re going to make sure government takes care of what religion people worship as well, since they are ignorant and don’t know how to take care of themselves”.

     The two Leftist tropes cannot existence together. They cannot be for freedom to worship as one pleases, while at the same time supporting the division between church/state when they want the state (government) to rule over 90% of the decisions people won’t be allowed to make in life.