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Grinch in the press box

Baseball | Peanuts, popcorn, and proselytizing

Issue: "Shattered dreams," April 5, 2008

A major league baseball season begins with hope. Maybe this year the Cubs will win it all. Or the downtrodden Pirates, Rays, or Royals. But The New York Times has begun this season with warnings of a major threat to the rites of spring: Christians.

Times sportswriter Murray Chass is crusading against voluntary Baseball Chapel services in major league locker rooms on Sunday mornings. He's equally upset with "faith nights" that typically feature a Christian music concert following a game, with players testifying to their belief in Jesus.

At least eight major league teams and at least three dozen minor league ones have such nights annually. Chass snorts, "Just what baseball needs-peanuts, popcorn and proselytizing." His solution: Since the U.S. Constitution "provides for separation of church and state," baseball executives should institute "separation of church and baseball."

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What about the separation of sportswriters and any understanding of the First Amendment? The amendment kept Congress from "establishing"-giving official preference to-any religion. By prohibiting an official government-backed religion it created freedom for religious expression of all kinds, including Islam, today.

Does Baseball Chapel, which allows Christians to join voluntarily for worship in their workplace, invade the rights of others? If the service is in a tiny umpires' dressing room and non-Christian umpires have no other place to go, sure-but a little planning and thoughtfulness can knock out such situations. The Chapels I've attended in Baltimore, Atlanta, Houston, and Arlington were in out-of-the-way stadium rooms, and even minor league parks have places to huddle.

Does an annual Christian concert/testimonies following a game infringe on others? If held directly before a game, maybe, but most fans clear out quickly once a game ends, so how does the typical concert that begins 30 minutes later hurt anyone? Teams typically have special nights to increase attendance, and that's fine: If the Detroit Tigers think a few thousand more fans will come for Allah Night, they should be allowed to have one. Readers of Chaim Potok's fine novel, The Chosen, might suggest Chasidim Night with the New York Mets.

If Baseball Chapel were eliminated, most Christian players would not have the opportunity to worship God together on Sunday morning. But the Chass articles reveal how rooted the concepts of a "naked public square" and "freedom from religion" remain within Times-style liberalism. Sports pages are generally a refuge from anti-Christian bigotry. Not in The New York Times, though. Americans remain a religious people ruled culturally by the non-religious in media and academia.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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