Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Columnist Dan DeWitt: Browning's stand puts prayer in its proper place

Kurt Browning, superintendent of Pasco schools, told coaches in a September memo that it’s inappropriate for coaches to lead team prayers.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2012)

Kurt Browning, superintendent of Pasco schools, told coaches in a September memo that it’s inappropriate for coaches to lead team prayers.

A Jehovah's Witness knocked on my door on a Saturday morning, a stack of Watchtowers in hand, and, forgive me, I was a little rude.

Why, I wondered afterward, did this visit set me off?

Partly because, like all proselytes, her working assumption was that she knows better than the rest of us.

I don't like it when people offer unsolicited advice about lifting weights at the gym. I sure don't want to hear it about a major, highly personal choice that most of us already have thought through: how and what to worship, if we choose to worship at all.

I don't, by the way, which is another reason I found the encounter so irritating. How would it go over if I went from door to door pitching my view of Christianity: that it's great as an ethical guide but, beyond that, nothing more than a comforting fairy tale?

Probably not well at all.

Tom Lehrer, the 1960s singer-comedian, had it wrong when he said everybody hates Jews. From my experience, in this conservative part of Florida, a lot more people hate atheists.

Not that this causes me real problems. I usually just keep my mouth shut and wish that believers would show the rest of us the same respect.

So, hooray for Pasco superintendent of schools Kurt Browning!

Browning sent out a memo recently asking the county's high school football coaches to refrain from leading team prayers.

It doesn't forbid prayers, mind you, it just says that students, rather than paid employees of the public school system, should be leading them. Constitutionally speaking, this draws the line in the right place.

However, if I were a coach, even a Christian one, I would not want team prayers at all.

That's because it's no better for team-building than it is for nation-building, which our founders wisely recognized.

And that's because, obviously, you exclude every player who doesn't believe in the prayer leader's god, or doesn't believe in any god, or is just smart enough to see the folly of praying to a peaceful god when playing a game as violent as football.

For a similar reason, I'm not going to get carried away praising Browning's political bravery. Yes, he took some heat. But what's smart for coaches is smart for politicians, and Browning has staked out a widely appealing position as a devout Baptist who, when it comes to the public realm, is also a devout secularist. It's a position that doesn't leave anybody out.

And I like to think that's the way the country is heading.

We've made some great advances recently in gay rights. Catholics have a new pope — more like God's golden retriever than his Rottweiler — who has spoken up for these rights and, amazingly, against evangelizing. And though a recent Gallup poll shows that a lot of voters, 43 percent, would never vote for an atheist president, that's a far lower percentage than just a few years ago.

Maybe a few more people are starting to get it: No matter how great you think your religion is, it's yours, not everybody else's.

Columnist Dan DeWitt: Browning's stand puts prayer in its proper place 10/07/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 7, 2013 7:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Watch live: President Trump's speech to the U.N. General Assembly

    World

    UNITED NATIONS — U.S. President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron are expected to take the spotlight at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations — but it's the tough global challenges from the nuclear threat in North Korea and the plight of Myanmar's minority Muslims to the …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in New York. [Associated Press]
  2. Police seek suspect in attack on elderly woman in St. Petersburg (w/video)

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police are seeking the public's help in finding a woman they say violently attacked a 69-year-old woman earlier this month.

  3. Photo of the Day for September 19, 2017 - Great Egret with green mating coloration

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Barbara Motter of Weeki Wachee, FL.

  4. 20 local museums are offering free admission or deals Saturday for Free Museum Day

    Visual Arts

    For all the community's support of the arts in the bay area, it's nice to be rewarded with free admission once in a while. And that's exactly what many area museums are offering on Saturday.

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  5. Cubs bring some other ex-Rays to Trop such as Wade Davis, Ben Zobrist

    Blogs

    Joe Maddon's first trip back to the Trop is getting most of the headlines tonight, but there are several other familiar faces among the eight former Rays now wearing Cubs uniforms.