Chico billboard questions God intrusion in Little League games

Billboard PR photo without the dad

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, with the help of an area member, has rented a billboard at Cohasset Road, north of Thorntree, in Chico, Calif., to send a message to the local Little League team about its exclusionary religious player pledge.

The billboard carries a cartoon by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoon Steve Benson pointing out the foibles of forcing religious litmus tests upon a captive audience of children, such as the Player Pledge or the motto “In God We Trust” — a Red Scare-era slogan Congress misguidedly adopted. The cartoon depicts a teacher throwing up her arms as she tries to amend the phrase “In God We Trust” to be inclusive. The billboard says, “Children over dogma — keep God out of Little League!”

At issue is a Little League Player Pledge mentioning God that is supposed to be optional. At the end of the Little League season in Chico, District 47 holds the annual Tournament of Champions and the All-Star Tournament. At the opening of each game of these tournaments, the players line up on the field and are instructed to recite the Player Pledge:

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

The local FFRF member who generously underwrote the cost of the billboard explains: “As a secular member of the community, I found it disappointing that youth Little League baseball would subject kids to such a coercive and divisive ceremony.

“After doing research, I learned that this has been a controversial practice occurring all over the country. I also learned that Little League International’s official position on the Player Pledge is that no player is required to participate in the pledge and the use of the pledge is entirely up to individual leagues and districts,” the Little League dad continues.

He contacted District 47 in Chico to express his issues with the pledge, to explain the impact the pledge has on secular members of the community and to ask that if they insist on including the Player Pledge they should at least inform the kids that their participation is optional.

Unaccountably, District 47’s response was that this solution was “untenable” and “not as productive.”

The Little League dad concludes, “My hope is that District 47 starts treating secular members of the community with respect and dignity, I believe ALL Little League players deserve that.”

Any god oath or pledge by definition excludes religiously unaffiliated Americans, described as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particulars,” who today are almost a third of the adult population and make up almost half of Generation Z — those born after 1996.

“That’s a lot of Little Leaguers and their parents to exclude,” points out Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “No child should be made to feel embarrassed or unwelcome due to religion at Little League games. What’s belief in a god got to do with baseball anyway?”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, founded in 1978 as a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, is the largest national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) with more than 40,000 members, including more than 5,000 in the state of California, and San Francisco and Sacramento-area chapters. FFRF works to educate the public about nontheism and to uphold the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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