Bob Ritter is a civil rights attorney for the American Humanist Association. Outside that organization, though, he’s working on a project of his own: Getting references to God removed from Little League baseball.
He’s doing this locally, in his town of Falls Church, Virginia.
Ritter, an assistant coach on a league team and whose son, Vincent, is a first-year player, was present for the opening ceremonies held at Westgate Park in Falls Church last April.
During the event, Ritter said a Methodist preacher was invited to the field for a religious invocation, and the children then recited the “Little League Pledge,” which contained the phrase, “I trust in God.”
While he recognizes the league is privately owned, Ritter said the league “is a secular organization” and the presence of religion “interferes with the ability to teach your child” and fails to recognize “Falls Church’s religiously diverse community.”
“Falls Church has a broad religious community of Catholics, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims,” he said. “Everyone doesn’t have the same idea of God, or believes in God.” Ritter identifies himself as an atheist.
Ritter added, “I wouldn’t want someone to give an invocation saying there is no God. I just want the Little League to treat my son by the Golden Rule, to treat him as they would want to be treated.”
Like the Boy Scouts of America, Little League is a private organization, so a lawsuit wouldn’t work unless there was blatant funding from the government.
But no doubt God is present at games across the country.
I trust in God
I love my country
And will respect its laws
I will play fair
And strive to win
But win or lose
I will always do my best
This issue rarely gets as much traction as Boy Scout cases — you don’t hear about Little League coaches getting kicked out from their volunteer positions for being atheists — but it’s just as frustrating.
I wonder if other atheists have had to deal with this issue. Did you or your kids have to say the Pledge?