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Friday, September 11, 2009

The hard sell.

Every now and then I run across a news account of something that is just so wrong, on so many levels, that it effectively boggles the mind. This is one of those times:

When Dannie Ammons' 16-year-old son, Robert, left on a school bus bound for a neighbouring Kentucky county two weeks ago, he thought his son's high-school football team was off to hear a motivational speaker and enjoy a steak dinner.

Instead, Robert was baptized and, along with eight other members of the Fighting Tigers football team, accepted Christ as his saviour.

Mr. Ammons, who is Catholic, said his son received the religious sacrament without his knowledge or consent.


"I believe the faith was pushed on my son," Mr. Ammons said, adding that he and his wife, who is a Baptist, hoped his son would wait until he was older to decide his faith.

"I think the coach used his faith as a weapon, and my son followed along. We feel like he was brainwashed.... I asked my son if he even knows what it means to be baptized as a Baptist, and he has no clue."

Okay, so, let's start: a football team from a public school went on a field trip (that, as a side note, did NOT include parental permission slips) to receive a religious rite. Moreover, the presence of the religious rite was not made public to some of the parents. We've already scored pretty high on the "fucked up" meter. But wait, if you can believe it, it gets even more bizarre:

Superintendent Janet Meeks, who is also a member of the church and who witnessed the ceremony, said she thought parents were aware the event included a church service and said participation was voluntary. "The coach requested the use of a school bus," she said in a statement released last night. "The cost of the fuel was donated, and the driver volunteered."

Although Mr. Ammons said most parents were "kept in the dark," a handful of parents knew their sons were heading to the revival service. In fact, some parents travelled the 40 kilometres to the Baptist church to attend the event.

So not only is all the earlier stuff true, but a school Superintendent was actually aware of, and present for, this little event. Granted, she may be correct that the effort was made to make parents aware of the church service, and that participation was voluntary, but on what planet is this an appropriate thing to do for a public school football team? Hell, do we even think most teenagers who are immersed in the sort of culture that emerges in sporting teams could say "no" to something like this? Do we even think most adults could manage the trick? But wait, folks, it gets more bizarre still:

Although Rev. Davis typically seeks parental consent for baptisms involving minors, he said the boys were "bulked up" and looked older than their 16 years.

"I didn't check their IDs," he said, adding that Mr. Mooney -- who has brought players to church services in the past -- did not pre-arrange for the boys to accept the sacrament.

And that's the real kicker- the religious professional in question uses a defense that has become a virtual cliche: "I thought she was eighteen, officer, I swear!" Then again, maybe we shouldn't be surprised given that 1 in 33 women who regularly attend religious services report being hit on by their religious leader. And two thirds of those religious leaders were already married. So, hey, more of the usual I guess.

I know I'm just a damned dirty atheist and, as such, am closed off to Christ or some nonsense like that. Nevertheless, it really seems to me that if you have to sell your faith las though it's a used car, you don't have much to offer.

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