The Bremerton School District isn’t being anti-Christian or politically correct in trying to stop a football coach from praying at the 50-yard line. It’s trying to stop a free-for-all.
Personally I am not the least bothered that a Bremerton high-school football coach does a postgame prayer on the 50-yard line. Public displays of faith are everywhere, so if you’re a nonbeliever, like me, who really cares about one more?
But there’s good practical reason why the Bremerton School District begged him not to. And that reason has now arrived — bearing the form of Satan.
You want freedom of religion at a high-school football game? OK, you’re about to get it.
This week the Satanic Temple of Seattle announced that a 12th-grader at Bremerton High School has requested the group join the coach’s prayer circle after the next game, on Thursday, to perform a satanic invocation.
Which goes something like this:
“Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our comforting delusions of old.
“That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is done. Hail Satan.”
That text was emailed to me by Lilith Starr, temple chapter head. With 45 members, the temple appears to be a group less interested in ritual than in driving home one point: We have separation of church and state in this country mostly to save us from ourselves.
“If they are creating an open public forum for religious expression, on the 50-yard line, then they have to make it open to all,” Starr said.
She added she’d heard there’s also interest in coming to the game “from the pagans, and some Buddhists. But that’s it for now.”
It was as preordained as the 40 days and nights of rain that this would be the prayer saga’s next turn.
Personally I sympathized with my colleague Matt Calkins’ take on the coach. Joe Kennedy seems like a fine man who is acting on his principles and isn’t solely out to proselytize.
But I would add that he also seems naive. We’ve had these exact fights countless times over religion in the public square. And the loser always is whoever is in charge of the square.
Remember when there was a Nativity scene inside the state Capitol in Olympia? Inevitably someone Jewish wanted to add a menorah. Then the atheists wanted a sign that read “Religion is … superstition that enslaves minds.” By the time someone applied to put up a Festivus pole, the frustrated state ordered them all to please just take it outside.
That’s why the Bremerton School District wants the coach to stop. Not because it’s being anti-Christian or politically correct. It’s because the alternative is an unmanageable free-for-all.
Defenders of the coach seem oblivious to this, even as they cite the parts of the Constitution that make it a near certainty. This week 47 members of Congress, the “prayer caucus,” wrote the school district to protest on the coach’s behalf.
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The Constitution does not “require that government officials proactively scrub all references of religion from the public square,” they wrote. “Rather, the Establishment Clause ensures that the government not show preference to a certain religion, and that the government not take away an individual’s ability to exercise religion.”
Right. But all that obviously means you’re obligated to wave on the Satanists, the pagans, the Buddhists, too.
I don’t know, it would be a scene. The game ends and is followed by the Muslim call to prayer. The Christians form their prayer circle at midfield. The pagans sacrifice a goat. The Satanists burn pentagrams onto the 35-yard line. The visiting delegation of the congressional prayer caucus wanders the field, speaking in tongues.
Or since this is a public event at a public school, is it too much to ask that everyone please just take it outside?
Ironically, I bet they’re praying right now over at school district headquarters. They’re wandering the halls muttering: “God help us all.”