Caught Spreading a False Story, Christian Writer Tries and Fails to Cover Up His Mistake

Earlier this month, I posted about Columbus High School athlete Derrick Hayes. Hayes ran the anchor leg of his track team’s 4 x 100-meter relay and they had qualified for the state tournament… until he made a special gesture:

As Hayes crossed the finish line in first, he “put his hand by his ear and just pointed to the heavens,” Hayes’ father said.

Officials ruled that the gesture violated a state scholastic rule against excessive celebration, which includes raising one’s hands. The team was disqualified, and barred from competing at the state championships.

Long story short, Christians were quick to call this religious discrimination… until Hayes and his family admitted religion had nothing to do with it:

“In looking back at the conclusion of the 4×100 race, we realize that Derrick could have handled the win in a different manner,” KC and Stacey Hayes said in the letter. “It was not our intention to force the issue that our son’s religious freedom was violated. Nor do we feel that way now. After discussing this with our son, we have come to the conclusion that his religious rights were not violated.”

So that’s that, right? Derrick learned a lesson the hard way. The refs did what they were supposed to do. Let’s move on.

Enter Dr. Jerry Newcombe. Writing for Truth in Action Ministries a week after all of this transpired, Newcombe didn’t get the memo that this wasn’t religious discrimination:

What did he do? What was his crime? After a successful run, as one of four runners (100 meters each in a relay), he pointed his finger to the sky—in a gesture of thanksgiving to God.

This one gesture now disqualifies his team because it was supposedly an “excessive celebration”—which is not allowed.

His father was dumbfounded, according to Alexander Marlow of Breitbart News (May 3, 2103): “It was a reaction,” said the father, “You’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”

It dawned on me that if that young man had given an obscene gesture to his team’s opponents, and he were likewise punished, the ACLU would have been at that young man’s defense faster than he had run the 100-meters.

Let me ask a question in this case: Where’s the church? Where’s the state?

Why is it that any sort of Christian expression in the public arena is not allowed, but virtually every other expression is allowed?

I’m going to ignore the totally ignorant statement about the ACLU for a second. Let’s give Newcombe the benefit of the doubt and assume he just missed the follow-up story about Hayes.

The proper thing to do would be to point out the mistake and apologize, or issue a correction right on that post, or write a new post explaining what went wrong.

But as we all know, we can’t assume Christians will do the right thing when the opportunity presents itself.

Here’s what Newcombe did:

He changed the entire post thinking no one would notice. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t issue a correction. He didn’t even tell anyone what he did.

He eliminated all the references to Hayes and replaced them with references to the Kountze High School cheerleaders:

Kountze, Texas has a population of 2,123 according to the 2010 census. The high school cheerleaders in this small town in the eastern part of the state have had the custom of writing encouraging Bible verses on the banners the players would run through.

But the Freedom From Religion Foundation (based in Wisconsin) complained and threatened to sue, so last fall the superintendent stopped the practice. But with the help of Liberty Institute, the cheerleaders won a victory in court to resume the practice. The legal group noted, “Liberty Institute is proud of these young women for taking a bold stand.”

Stepping back, let me ask a question in this case: Where’s the church? Where’s the state?

Why is it that any sort of Christian expression in the public arena is not allowed, but virtually every other expression is allowed?

First of all, that doesn’t even make any sense, since the Christian expression in this case was allowed. Newcombe just committed a “cdesign proponentsists“-like error.

But more importantly, how did Newcombe think no one would notice?! Has he not heard of Google Cache?! Because I have. And the original article can be found right here (PDF). (You’re welcome.)

According to Wonkette, which first caught this lie:

We think there may be some old adage about a Lie for Jesus making all the way around a hundred meter track and into wingnut media before the truth gets its track shoes tied, but we don’t really recall.

So when is Truth in Action Ministries going to change its name? It obviously doesn’t apply.

(via Right Wing Watch)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Sven2547

    Gotta keep feeding the ol’ Persecution Complex. That’s the only way the evangelical crowd can spin their constant impositions on other people’s liberties: they need to act like they’re the victims of everyone else’s freedom and equality.

  • Sauls TImothy

    what about you? PZ the biggest creep of them all

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    From this Blogpost title “Caught Spreading a False Story, Christian Writer Tries and Fails to Cover Up His Mistake” I thought maybe you were referring to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

    Christian writers have a very long tradition of lying in their writings!

  • TiltedHorizon

    Now that Newcombe has been busted the countdown begins on which lie he will use to cover it up.

    Will it be that an “atheist” hacked his account?
    The “I accidentally released a unfinished draft”?
    The “I never stated such a thing. Google cache is a leftist tool to discredit me” excuse?

    Place your bets.

  • Beth

    Ugh, a local (Lorain Ohio) reverend sited this athlete indecent in a recent letter to the editor. Guess men of god don’t get memos too often since they are still following a book that is way outdated.

  • busterggi

    I’m betting he’ll go straight to “Satan made it look like he lied”.

  • Steven W. Phillips

    The area “news”papers from the area (Redneckistan) were all full of comments that were just as entertaining as Tex Avery cartoons while a depressing as “Shindler’s list”

  • Alexander Sherman Loeb

    A bit off topic… You said “But as we all know, we can’t assume Christians will do the right thing when the opportunity presents itself.”

    Doesn’t that seem a bit harsh (or at best needlessly snarky) for someone who prides himself on being the FRIENDLY Atheist? Doesn’t seem like a friendly comment to make…

  • Charles Honeycutt

    I’ve never been a fan of that phrase, but you are probably extremely unfamiliar with what we see daily from every part of the country and beyond thanks to blogs like this one. It’s a more accurate phrase than it shoudl be.

  • gadlaw

    Good catch

  • A3Kr0n

    I still don’t believe that gesture was excessive celebration.

  • martinrc

    He says “we can’t assume Christians will do the right thing” because history shows in these situations that they don’t always. It isn’t stating that they always do the wrong or right thing, just that there lacks consistency. Its just blatantly stating a fact that the opportunity to do the right thing and come clean has appeared numerous times in these instances, and there have been times when they just kept building upon more lies instead of just coming clean and being honest.

  • martinrc

    Oh and then he follows up the comment that we can’t assume them to do the right thing with another example of someone doing the wrong thing

  • Yoav

    So when is Truth in Action Ministries going to change its name? It obviously doesn’t apply.

    they’re dealing with Truth™, which has nothing to do with stuff like facts or reality which were invented by Satan.

  • GeorgeLocke

    “But as we all know, we can’t assume Christians will do the right thing when the opportunity presents itself.”

    Well of course you can’t assume that. It would be a very strange group of people that always did the right thing. Being defensive and refusing to admit error is normal behavior. Christians are normal people. They are not better for being Christian.

    The point is that atheists catch a lot of flack from Christians for having no moral compass, but Christians have no claim to moral superiority.

  • GeorgeLocke

    Hayes and his family don’t think it was religious discrimination, but that doesn’t mean Newcombe is a liar for saying it is. I don’t think Newcombe’s position makes a whole lot of sense, but Mehta is making it out like Hayes’ opinion on the matter ought to be conclusive so that Newcombe should print a retraction, and I don’t see any reason why that should be the case.

    Still, just editing the piece to be refer ot the cheerleaders instead is shady. Plus, the cheerleaders behavior was allowed and so serves as no kind of evidence for Newcombe’s already weak case.

  • Rando

    You’re not betting on the sure thing? “Shut down all comments and ignore any and all dissenting opinion.”

  • SusanQ2

    I sort of see where you’re coming from, but I disagree. I don’t think it’s snarky or unfriendly to point out that we can’t assume anyone will do the right thing just because they are part of a given group.

    Substitute “atheists,” “school teachers,” “politicians,” or “policemen” with the word “Christians” in the same statement and it would be equally true.

    If anything, the usage here sounds like a bit of frustration with our society’s tendency to automatically equate Christianity with morality. And, to me, that is a valid position, not a sign of snarky or unfriendly behavior.

  • Matthew Baker

    I always get a kick out the slight Xenophobia that comes into play when the FFRF mentioned by right leaning reporting and blogging. They always have to mention FFRF is from Wisconsin–I am fairly sure they do this to make them look like outsiders pushing there way into a “local” issue. I have rarely notice this with other organizations when they get mentioned.

  • Baby_Raptor

    There’s nothing unfriendly about recognizing patterns, even if the results of said patterns are negative.

    Being friendly does not always require being nice. Real friends will be honest with you when you Fuck up; they’ll give you real opinions and real critiques instead of being yes men.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I don’t really think it was excessive either, but wasn’t most of the issue how he got snarky with the judges?

  • DougI

    According to fundamentalists it’s perfectly acceptable to lie for Jesus. Anyone else telling a lie is committing a “sin”. But the ends justifies the means when it comes to fundies so lying is perfectly acceptable.

  • Jerome McCollom

    It is a stupid rule to begin with. Unless an athelete is taunting to the other team(s), there shouldn’t be a violation. Second, what is with fundamentalists and hating the ACLU? The ACLU has time and time again defended the free exercise rights of Christians in schools, parks, prisons etc. They just oppose endorsement by the government. I am tired of the lies told about the ACLU.

  • Roger Peritone

    Yeah, I have trouble with this rule also. The only reason for disqualification should be if you got caught cheating in the race. How you act afterwards has no bearing. If he lipped off to the judges, punish him some other way. Maybe bar him from future races?

  • se habla espol

    So when is Truth in Action Ministries going to change its name?

  • se habla espol

    So when is Truth in Action Ministries going to change its name?

    Truth Inaction Ministries seems appropriate to me, although in this
    case, he seems to have actually taken action when truth was called to
    his attention.

    And what’s that partial comment doing there, with my ‘nym on it?

  • Lurker111

    I too have a problem with “excessive celebration” rules, in general. What’s an athlete supposed to do on a win? Break down and cry?

  • Beth

    Ever see the documentary 12th and Delaware? Its an HBO doc about the pregnancy crisis centers. They have a scared pregnant woman who tells the counselor that her boyfriend is abusive and she wants to end the pregnancy. The counselor sips a McDonald’s coke and tells this woman that maybe the baby will change her boyfriend for the better. In another scene the same counselor is talking about how her minister or priest okay-ed the lies.

  • GeorgeLocke

    that’s really awful.

  • DougI

    I sent one of my friends in one of those with a hidden microphone. Yeah, they do tell quite a bit of lies and try to lure women to have their kids with emotion rather than with rational thought.

  • TCC

    Hemant’s right that you can’t expect this out of Christians (nor of atheists, for that matter), and if you read enough of his posts, you’ll notice that he gives praise to Christians who do the right thing. This objection is a tempest in a teapot.

  • allein

    That’s exactly why they do it. Every once in a while I’ve seen a reporter refer to FFRF as a national group based in Wisconsin, or some such phrasing that makes clear that they are not simply a bunch of outsiders trolling the country for “silly” little cases to stick their noses in, but that’s fairly rare. Usually it’s “a Wisconsin group” or whatever and they neglect to mention that the only reason they get involved is that someone in that community called them in.

  • Blacksheep

    Putting your hand by your ear and pointing up is excessive celebration? Wow – whoever made that call must be a blast at parties!

  • Blacksheep

    That’s because, fairly, they ARE outsiders pushing themselves into local issues. It has nothing to do with religion – we would all find it odd if a guy from two towns over showed up to blow the whistle on a law you were breaking.

  • Blacksheep

    I appreciate ACLU’s mission – but remember that much of the dislike for them comes from the fact that they have have defended, aided, and helped truly deplorable organizations, and they were never required to do so, including conservative bigots, nazi’s, and pedophiles. So in their effort to defend “everyone” they sometimes wind up defending the few, and hurting the many.

  • Blacksheep

    I have never met a Christian who believes that lying is acceptible. What do you mean by “according to?”

  • John

    So what? Why does the location of their headquarters have anything to do with whether or not laws are being broken?

  • DougI

    If they’re going to lie to you it’s not exactly a great idea for them to tell you they are going to lie. That would defeat the purpose.

  • SphericalBunny

    I’ve never met a Christian that *says* lying is acceptable, but it is rare, in my experience, for it to be pointed out that they are lying + for them to admit and apologise for their lie (intentional or otherwise). You don’t need to apply this only to Christians either, it’s a fairly common trait.
    My issue is that it has fallen to Christians specifically (again, in my experience), to either expound on the lie, or to be non-responsive and repeat the said same lie when they think you’re not paying attention. I find that pretty deplorable.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    … and hurting the many.

    How? Hurting their feelings when they are forced to listen to unpleasant people? If you don’t want to see neo-nazi or KKK parades, don’t go.

    You have some ideas for changing the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution to make it more to your liking?