Godly pledge isn’t fair play, FFRF chides Little League

Little League

Be inclusive of all Americans, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is exhorting the Little League.

Secular parents have contacted the state/church watchdog about the Little League Pledge many times and in various contexts over the years. The first line of the pledge begins, “I trust in God.” Most recently, several concerned parents in California have reported that their Little League teams require their nonreligious children to recite the pledge.

A historical recap: Little League President Peter J. McGovern wrote the pledge in 1954 during the height of the McCarthy Era. The first line, “I trust in God,” reflects that historical period and has nothing to do with baseball, FFRF points out. Such phrases are widely recognized as blatant attempts at the time to ostracize nontheists.

Even during the McCarthy Era, the Little League Pledge was unrepresentative of the religious landscape of the United States, and the current religious landscape is even less represented by the phrase “I trust in God.” More than one-fourth of Americans currently identify as nonreligious. A 10-point increase since 2007 makes the “Nones” the fastest-growing identification in America.

“Many of the nonreligious parents and children in Little League feel excluded by the language ‘I trust in God,’” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Little League President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen D. Keener. “The fact that ‘I trust in God’ is part of the official pledge means that nonbelieving children and parents are — at best — second-class members of Little League. This should also be a concern to the board of Little League in its international affiliations because some parts of the world are much less religious than the United States, and ‘I believe in God’ does not make sense to some religious faiths.”

The pledge gives a veneer of official Little League sanction to religion and an excuse for leaders to impose that religious language on children, FFRF emphasizes. The parents who contacted FFRF were surprised and disturbed to learn that the coaches had been requiring their children to recite the pledge before games. Children on the ballfield are not, obviously, in a position to read the official Little League website where it says, “[The Little League Pledge] is not, and has never been, required to be recited by any person involved with Little League Baseball or Softball.” Even had coaches given the children a choice, the social pressure from an official Little League coach crosses the line into coercion.

Religion has nothing to do with playing baseball, FFRF underscores. Inserting religion into a baseball pledge is unnecessary, coercive and divisive — and Little League should immediately remove “I trust in God” from its official pledge.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with nearly 36,000 members and several chapters across the United States. One of its primary purposes is to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. Photo via Shutterstock by JBunch

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement