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Leave God Out of This Patriot's (Ball) Games

April 27, 2002|KEITH R. TAYLOR | Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista. E-mail:

I resent the singing of "God Bless America" at the ballgame. That isn't an easy admission because baseball, God and patriotism are so intertwined that they are often considered one.

I am patriotic and have the credentials to support that claim. I served my country in uniform for nearly 23 years. I gladly accepted hardship and danger as a part of my job. The Navy thought enough of me to make me one of the younger chief petty officers of my time, and to trust me with some of its most closely held secrets. It later put a little gold on my sleeves and a few shiny medals on my chest.

I do all the other things too. I vote in every election and donate time, money and effort to help candidates and causes of my choice. I worked the polls in about 15 elections and often donated the meager stipend to charity.

That brings me to "God Bless America." My resentment of it has nothing to do with patriotism. It has an awful lot to do with God, and public prayers given to him. "God Bless America" is definitely a prayer.

Sure, we can simply say it doesn't hurt, and that's true. A mere song can't hurt; at least not much. Neither could the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools. Neither could opening a school session with a prayer invoked over the loudspeaker. Nor could the inscription "In God we trust" on our currency really hurt.

The constitutions of Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee forbid any nonbeliever from holding office of any sort, but I don't live in any of those states. So why should I worry about it?

None of those things matter much taken separately, but collectively they deliver a message.

It hurts to see a national newspaper run a piece claiming that Sept. 11 had a silver lining because it brings us closer to God. The writer also said that there were no atheists in the World Trade Center. I flinch when I hear not only buffoons such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, but the likes of TV host Ben Stein blame atheists for the attack on the World Trade Center. How about when a search for a cure for many of our dread diseases is stymied by a ridiculous belief that stem cell research is somehow counter to God's will?

Does it matter to anybody that our foreign policy is, in a large part, dictated by religious beliefs? Do you imagine it stung a bit back in 1987 when then-Vice President George Bush stated that atheists could not be patriotic nor could they be citizens.

The list is endless. Criticize any one of those things and soon you'll hear "this is a Christian nation." For proof you'll hear about the coins, the song, the Pledge of Allegiance ("under God"), and all the rest of the trappings of religion. Every single one will be trotted out to prove that, despite what the Constitution says, "this is a Christian nation."

You know what hurts most of all? The fact that if the members of any religion were treated as we atheists are, Congress, the media, even leaders of other religions would defend their rights.

So, no, I will not sing "God Bless America. I'm not so stupid as to sit down during the playing of it, and incur the wrath of those who believe something special will happen because they sing a prayer. I'll simply leave before they start playing it.

But I am indeed offended by it.

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