Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Little League's Not For Atheists

When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to play in Little League baseball. I never did, although exactly why is lost in time. Was it because there was no Little League where I lived, or because I wasn't good enough, or some other reason? I can't remember. But maybe it was all for the best, because the Little League thinks that atheists can't be good baseball players.

Want proof? Look at the Little League Pledge, which is

I trust in God
I love my country
And will respect its laws
I will play fair
And strive to win
But win or lose
I will always do my best

Despite protests, Little League refuses to change or modify its pledge. When criticized, LL hides behind the claim that "it is not, and has never been, required to be recited by any person involved with Little League Baseball or Softball". But you can be damn sure if the Pledge said, "I trust in Allah", they'd be really quick to change it.

I don't understand why belief in magical beings has anything to do with playing baseball, and it's too bad that Little League does.

Update: Jerry K. reminds me about this column by my colleague Josh Benaloh.


Anonymous said...

Little League (like the Boy Scouts) tried to claim it wasn't a public accommodation back in 1974, when they tried to keep girls out. In this case, they lost, so they can't discriminate against atheists. I don't know if their pledge would be a violation of public accommodation laws or not; as they say, members can ignore it.

Anonymous said...

Our kids have played Little League for several years. We always thought the first half of the pledge was rather silly. As pledges go, it's sloppy and muddled.

What's especially silly is the choice of which things to trust, love, and respect. Any other combination would have made as much (or as little) sense:

"I respect God, trust my country, and love its laws."

"I love God, respect my country, and trust its laws."

"I respect God, love my country, and trust its laws."

At least it doesn't say "believe in God". For that matter, they don't say *which* country.

And why only "respect" the laws? That's a rather low standard, isn't it?

See? It's a silly, sloppy pledge. If I were religious or jingoistic, I think I'd be offended by the frivolity of it. Instead, I find it amusing.

The second half isn't so bad. The kids generally "play fair" and "do my best".

Harriet said...

Actually, I like the last 4 lines of the pledge.

Unfortunately, one's superstitions rarely ONLY affect one's own affairs.

For example, one's religious beliefs can lead one to think that their deity will punish them and their friends because others around them don't believe in the "right way".

There are lots of examples of that in the Bible.

This is one reason I've really come to see religion as a harmful thing rather than a harmless superstition.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of having a pledge if it's entirely optional? makes no sense to me.

I can recall, in discussion about the U.S Pledge of Allegiance, suggesting a rotation between "one nation under God" and "one nation without God" in the interest of fairness. Maybe Allah could be given a spot in the rotation as well. Somehow that doesn't go over too well. Not that I would want such a rotation, but it points out that the current setup doesn't even meet the "Golden Rule," one of the more simplistic ethical systems.

John Farrell said...

But were you an atheist when you were eligible for Little League, Jeff?


I was in Pee Wee League, Little League (or rather the lower, ahem, Farm League of Little League) and Babe Ruth League in Milton (a suburb south of Boston) in the 1970s...but I don't recall any pledges, oaths or prayers while playing. Although I distinctly do remember saying a lot of Hail Marys from the bench when we almost lost the Pee Wee league penant....

Anonymous said...

I played Little League my entire childhood and I don't remember this pledge, nor any references to God or Country. I was also in the Boy Scouts, a quasi-Christian organization, but again don't recall any mention of religion, other than what's in the pledge of allegiance, which we did have to recite pretty often. In any case neither are government orgs so I don't see why they can't cater to Christians, or even accept only boys if they want.

Anonymous said...

In any case neither are government orgs so I don't see why they can't cater to Christians, or even accept only boys if they want.

OK, but such organizations, and you can include the American Legion, frequently make use of government-owned facilities. There's a flap in Philadelphia right now over a sweetheart lease of a government building by the Boy Scouts.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's a problem with the government officials, not with the Boy Scouts.