I’m outraged! So I was walking by a public school last weekend and I found out that inside that school there was a baseball practice going on! Can you believe it? It turns out that a baseball company rents out this school every weekend and teaches people about baseball. Unbelievable! The reason I’m so angry is that my family is a soccer family. We love soccer and enjoy teaching our children that the best sport in the world is soccer. I mean, come on! I don’t want my kids being persuaded to play baseball because some team is practicing at their school. Granted, as we walked by the school, my kids had no idea there was baseball practice going on in that school until I threw such a hissy fit about it. Now, I’m no expert on the game of baseball and couldn’t tell you too much about it, and I’m sure teaching kids baseball has some advantages, such as teamwork, self-sacrifice (bunting and the sacrifice fly) and physical fitness, but my soccer ways are so much more important to me. Yes, I know that the school was not endorsing baseball and that there weren’t any representatives from that school leading the practice or even in attendance at the practice. But that’s beside the point. Let’s stick to the real issue here; my kids’ minds are too fragile and the last thing I want them to be is confused about which sport to play. If anyone is going to brainwash my children into what to believe, it’ll be me. Under no circumstance do I want my children to come to their own conclusions about what to play.
Does that sound absurd? That line of thinking isn’t much different than what is currently going on in NYC schools right now. I realize that putting religion and sports in the same context isn’t fair, unless of course you happen to be a Tebow or Jeremy Lin fan. Because of high rent and limited space, churches have been renting space from public schools for years now. Recently, churches have been told they can no longer participate in worship services inside of the schools. This is not another “prayer in public school” issue. Schools are not open on Sundays and the only people inside the schools on Sundays are there on a volunteer basis. The schools are not endorsing a religion either. They are simply sharing space, a concept that people in NYC readily understand. Mayor Bloomberg’s comment that “someday the religion that the state chooses might not be yours,” isn’t the issue either. The state shouldn’t be in the business of choosing or advocating a religion, and churches who meet in school aren’t proposing or suggesting that the state do so. Churches renting public school space aren’t trying to covertly infiltrate the government; they just want a place to meet together. And many of these churches serve neighborhoods where social resources are scarce. As Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church wrote, “A disproportionate number of churches that are affected by this prohibition are not wealthy, established communities of faith. They are the ones who possess the fewest resources and many work with the poor.”
Another argument that has been raised is that the schools are being funded by tax payers’ dollars – people who believe differently than the church that is renting the space do not want their dollars funding the service. Who can blame them? Nobody wants their taxpaying dollars going for something they are fundamentally against. All sides of the political spectrum can agree on that. But the key word here is “renting.” The tax payer’s money isn’t being used. The church’s money is covering all expenses and then some. In fact, given the amount of budget cuts for schools the past several years, schools need the extra income. I’m sure those teachers that have lost their jobs and those teachers confronting overcrowded classrooms wouldn’t mind the schools making a few extra dollars. (My son currently is packed into a second grade classroom with 32 other kids and the mayor seems to believe the more the merrier.)
There was a time in my life when I was cynical towards churches and completely disillusioned with organized religion. The things that were done and said by some professed Christians left me angry. But I was judging the many by the actions of the few. I wasn’t alone in my negative perception of the church, and sometimes churches deserve it. After all, like everyone else, Christians are sinners. But, churches have a positive impact too. When bad things happen and disaster strikes, churches step up and help those in need. When I was in Haiti last spring, I noticed one religious organization after another that had set up stations to help those that are struggling to survive. One of the main principles of Christianity is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Who would not want a neighbor that does that? Taking churches out of New York City would diminish service to those in need.
And finally, is having baseball in the school that big of a deal? Baseball isn’t the only sport renting space. Throughout the city volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and even soccer is being played every weekend. If we are a melting pot of a nation, then we need to actually work with one another. That means getting along and giving space to those that play other sports than what we have chosen for ourselves. Respect goes a long way. That goes for sports enthusiasts from all walks of life.