Even though it doesn’t feel like it for most Americans, spring really is almost upon us, and with spring comes baseball. Unfortunately in this country, you apparently can’t attend a major league game (or even other kinds of games) without being forced to participate in a religious exercise or risk opening yourself up for harassment and worse.
Here’s how this particular bully pulpit works. Usually around the 6th or 7th inning, the spectators are requested to stand for the playing or signing of God Bless America to “honor the troops”. Typically, stadium managers trot out a sprinkling of uniformed service members to parade and wave on command, because SEE, it’s ABOUT THE TROOPS! There is no good way to respond – either you refuse to stand at which time you get accused of “disrespecting the troops” or “dishonoring the United States”, or you cave into pressure and stand, even while knowing that this exercise is specifically designed to promote Christian patriotism in service of a Christian nation and the rest of us don’t matter.
And here’s a first hand account (mine) of how it goes in the stands from there. I’m an Army retiree with almost 23 years of service and during the only major league baseball game I have ever attended, I refused to stand, not because I don’t respect the troops but because I will not be bullied into participating in religious stuff. However, while I stayed seated, I was intensely uncomfortable and was aware that I was attracting some unwanted attention. After this so-called “honor” was completed, the previously nice lady next to me refused to speak with me or even look at me and the man behind me whispered nice things in my direction, such as “disrespectful bitch”. And these people were showing restraint, probably because I was clearly with my husband, young stepdaughter, and elderly and disabled parents, but I’m aware of several other instances where worse was said and done to those who choose not to participate.
Granted, major league baseball is a private organization (or as least as private as any sports organization that receives tax subsidies and benefits can be) and that generally means they can legally sponsor any religious activities they choose. However, this particular religious exercise is a complete SHAM in that they claim to play God Bless America “for the troops” and yet this song bears no association with military troops and does nothing to honor any service members.
It’s time this practice was stopped and we need to let major league baseball know it. Please sign and spread the below petition.
VP, American Atheists