Should Public Prayer Be Allowed in Football? January 21, 2009

Should Public Prayer Be Allowed in Football?

Stephen Dubner of the Freakonomics blog suggests (not very seriously) a new atheist lawsuit.

Earlier this year, Mike Pereira, the National Football League’s Vice President of Officiating, explained which sorts of touchdown celebrations would be allowed and which would be considered excessive (and thus penalized):

Pereira stated:

The whole issue is, you can’t go to the ground on your knees or with your hand or anything. There’s only one time that you’re going to be allowed to go on your knee after you score like this, and that’s when you want to praise the Lord. If you do that, then I’m going to allow that, because I do not want to be struck by lightning, I promise you that. We will allow that.

Clearly, this means atheists would be penalized for celebrating a touchdown while Christians would be spared. (Tim Tebow has already taken advantage of the pro-Christian slant in NCAA football!)

And had the New Orleans Saints made it into the Super Bowl, the other team would *so* not have stood a chance.

Of course, the NFL is a private organization and they can do whatever they’d like…

My suggestion: Forget the full-page newspaper ads. Atheist groups need to combine our resources and just buy an informational Super Bowl Ad. Then everyone will take notice.

(via Freakonomics)

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  • mikespeir

    As far as I know, he NFL is a completely private organization. There are no church/state considerations.

    It’s one thing for a state-funded school to push religion. It’s quite another for an athlete to have his freedom of speech stifled. It isn’t the school doing the speaking, after all.

  • Of course, the NFL is a private organization and they can do whatever they’d like…

    Not if they punish some employees and not others for the same acts based on the religious views of the employees.

    Here’s the EEOC

    Title VII prohibits..treating applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, assignments, discipline, promotion, and benefits (disparate treatment);

    Of course, it depends on exactly what is considered OK and not OK. But it looks like religious people CAN do some sort of demonstration, while nonreligious people CANNOT.

  • mikespeir

    I guess I didn’t read it that way, Brian. He seems simply to be prohibiting kneeling except for religious reasons. This, I think, would be exactly the opposite of requiring an action for religious reasons.

    And I think Hemant has it wrong. It wouldn’t penalize atheists for celebrating touchdowns. The prohibition proscribes kneeling except for religious purposes, something I doubt atheists would want to do anyway.

  • I would give some serious cash for an atheist superbowl ad!

  • Oh, I don’t know. The uber-Christian Rockies got their butts kicked, didn’t they?

  • Richard Wade

    I don’t understand the problem with putting your knees or hands on the ground. That doesn’t seem like much of a celebration anyway. They usually wave their arms in the air or slam the ball on the ground or do a dance. WTF?

    Wait a minute, let me make sure I have the right game. Football is that stylized representation of war, right? Where little armies in helmets and body armor battle for territory, slamming into each other, the only things missing are the swords and pikes, right?

    Well, since it’s a celebration of war I can understand the pro-Christian bias.

  • How’s this for a touchdown celebration – the scoring player starts imitating an ape, all hunched over and arms swinging but as he moves along gradually straightens up until walking fully upright when he spikes the ball. The evolution of the touchdown! If he could smuggle a Darwin mask onto the pitch then all the better…

  • “Allowed” yes.
    “Required” no.

    Also, if the act of prayer breaks a rule on the game then the religious aspect should be ignored and the appropriate penalty paid. If you don’t enforce this then you might have a situation where the rules of the game are flouted to account for a particular religious observance. As with any game it should reflect real life.

  • godinus

    Isn’t prayer just words to an Atheist anyway, what harm is in a person speaking words with his eyes shut and hands clasped?

    Are the Atheists scared that they might hear the word ” GOD ” and go to hell?
    Get over it, we can speak to whoever we want even if its to someone you can’t see, or beleive is there.

  • I guess I didn’t read it that way, Brian. He seems simply to be prohibiting kneeling except for religious reasons.

    Well, exactly. Suppose after two touchdowns, each of the two scoring players knelt. If one player is a theist and the other is an atheist, it looks like only the atheist would be punished, even though both players performed exactly the same acts.

    That does not look legal under title VII of the 1964 civil rights act. One player is punished and one player is not punished, and the only difference are the religious views of the players.

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