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Friday, October 30, 2015

No Praying!

Perhaps you haven't kept up. It seems that an assistant coach for a Bremerton, WA, high school football team has now been placed on administrative leave because he refused to stop praying on the field after football games after having been ordered to stop. The school says he is "constitutionally required" to avoid "public religious displays" and is now barred from participating in any capacity in the football program until he agrees to comply.

Now, I have to say, this is nuts. This is crazy. You see, the man wasn't holding a prayer meeting for his team. He would go out alone on the field after the games to thank God for the team, the outcome, the safety of his guys, that kind of thing. He's been doing it for 7 years. The impromptu prayer gathered others, including players from both teams, fans, and even coaches. But none of it was official, mandatory, or anything like it. Hey, it was even at the end of the game so no one got held up from doing what needed to be done (like start the game or something). Folks, this is not rational. It is not possible to absolutely remove religion from the public. Can't be done. If Mr. Kennedy (the coach in question) believes in God, then it must bear out in his actions. And, look, I'm not even talking about Mr. Kennedy here. If someone else believes in Allah, that will influence how he or she acts and if they are Satan worshippers, that will influence how they act. That's the nature of things. You always act on what you actually believe. It cannot be banned.

Now, I have to say, I'm not sure of the biblical backing for Mr. Kennedy here, either. See, we're commanded by God to obey the authorities that God has put in place (Rom 13:1-5). The biblical example we have is that, unless commanded by human authority to violate a command from God, we're supposed to abide by the commands of human authority over us. Thus, when the Sanhedrin commanded the disciples to stop preaching the Gospel, the command was in direct contradiction to Jesus's command to preach the Gospel, so they were forced to submit to Jesus and not to the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:28-29). And as far as I can tell we have no command from God to go out on the football field at the end of a football game and pray. Jesus suggested (And you know that a "suggestion" from Christ is a command, right?) that most of our prayers should be in private (Matt 6:6). I mean, clearly Jesus Himself had "non-private" prayers (like, for instance, John 17), but as to the location commanded by God, we have none. So I'm not at all clear that Mr. Kennedy can claim biblical precedence here. He may be standing on his own, not on biblical grounds.

So, why did I originally say it was crazy? I'm not sure how one can read the First Amendment and claim that the Constitution bans public religious displays. Even for people in "government roles". The First Amendment requires that no such ban be made. So on a constitutional ground I think Kennedy has protection and the school administration is simply pushing an anti-Christian agenda already started in our nation and especially forwarded by left-leaning politicians and their followers. As for me, I'd suggest Mr. Kennedy submit to the authority God has placed over him and stop praying on the field. But that's because I don't see the Constitution as my first guide to godly behavior. I get that from Scripture. I don't know where he gets his. I do know where the school administration gets theirs ... and it ain't the Constitution.


David said...

Wouldn't he fall under letting his faith be a light? He's not hiding his prayer time and not letting anyone see his faith, he is showing it, and as long as his motivation is obedience, wouldn't that go against that particular secular ruling?

David said...

Just read a little more about this story, and you're probably right, no biblical leg to stand on.

Stan said...

Good job. No need for me to give an answer, eh?

David said...

I read up on it and it seems he was given the option to pray elsewhere but he is insistent on the middle of the field. If his goal is to pray for the teams, it shouldn't matter where. Still seems unconstitutional, but I can't see a biblical basis. It is sad that we have become so used to our legal and constitutional rights that we have lost sight that those aren't God given rights, but man given. I know the original writers believed these truths were self evident, but obviously they are not.

Stan said...

That's where I fall -- protected constitutionally, but not biblically. Interesting illustration of legal versus moral.

Marshall Art said...

Haven't been reading about this, though I have noticed it here and there. Some questions:

--Do you regard school administrators, even school district administrators, and as such, employers to be among those authorities of which Scripture speaks? I always took that to mean governmental authorities, of which the school and school district, are not (in my opinion, as far as I can surmise).

--Did the coach speak of having Biblical backing for his choice of mid-field for prayer?

--Did the coach use the public address system to broadcast his praying?

--Did the coach make a point of inviting others to join him, or simply welcome those who desired to do so?

Personally, I feel that assuming the coach is praying out of a sincere spirit as opposed to posturing, public displays of faith are not only a good thing, but probably something that would be beneficial for the culture in general. I like it.

Stan said...

I regard bosses at work as authority at work. As such, I would include them in Paul's command to submit to "governing authorities". He uses the same language when he tells slaves to submit to masters and children to obey parents. Would it be your view that we can ignore authorities that are not "governmental authorities" if we wish? (That was a question, not a challenge.)

The coach apparently did this whole thing on his own. He made no reference to biblical backing. The only "public facilities" he used was the 50 yard line. He asked no one to join him. On the other hand, the administrators offered him the opportunity to do this prayer somewhere else on campus -- a classroom or something (after school hours, you know).

As I said, constitutionally I think it's insane to say he can't do it. The school is in the wrong. But since I believe that Christians are supposed to submit to whatever authorities God has placed them under -- wives to husbands, congregation to church leaders, employees to employers, citizens to government, etc. -- and since there IS no biblical command to pray in public after a football game, I can't bring myself around to "It's good and right for him to defy the authority under which he has submitted by taking the job", even if I do believe he is constitutionally correct.

David said...

Public prayer is definitely not a biblically protected right (look at Jesus and the Pharisees about prayer). In the article I read, the coach's stance was midfield or nowhere. Again, not a biblical position. And no, he wasn't trying to stand on biblical principles, and that's Stan's point. We need to choose our hills based on biblical principle, not legal principle. Sure, commend there guy for going out and praying, but those in authority commanded him to stop in public. They aren't stopping him from praying at all, only on the midfield. They are not violating a biblical command, thus he must submit.