Five at 8 – 10/27/09: Religion and football


1) In Georgia, school officials barred the cheerleaders from hanging any banners that had Biblical verses on them. Since 9/11, cheerleaders painted the verses on giant paper banners that the football team ran through during pre-game introductions. The town responded. They bring God’s Warriors signs to the games. In a battle between those wanting to keep church and state separate, and those who prefer it to be merged, the latter is winning this particular battle, the New York Times reports.

Why does football and religion seem to be linked more than say, the band and religion in schools? You don’t usually see the band kids gather in prayer before the first song. Why not? Why doesn’t the glee club put up posters that say, “Make a joyful noise.”?

2) It’s not easy being green glass. In Mankato, residents dutifully put green-colored glass in with the other recyclables. They might as well just toss them in the trash. Green glass can only be recycled into more green glass and there’s no market for it. Still, the state requires that it be collected. Some people want to change that.

3) Bear expert Lynn Rogers of Minnesota is the focus of a BBC documentary that airs tomorrow night: He’s getting some UK love today.

In the years Rogers has tramped through the Northwoods he has abandoned just about everything he knew, or thought he knew, about bears. They do not like honey. They are not even that crazy about berries or nuts – provided, of course, there is a nice rich stash of ant larvae in the vicinity.

And they are not ferocious. Rogers is adamant about that. He said he has never heard a bear roar or even growl, and that in all of his years of close proximity to the animals he has never been seriously hurt even though in his early years he displayed what he calls “bad bear manners”.

Rogers was a guest on MPR’s Midmorning last December.

4) The Washington Post has the story today of Matthew Hoh, who has resigned from the Foreign Service because, he says, he doesn’t know why the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan. He only joined the Foreign Service earlier this year:

“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”

The White House will be getting back to you on that, Matthew.

Meanwhile, WNYC’s The Takeaway today looks at competing narratives of this week’s helicopter “crash” in Afghanistan.

5) A nice catch by the New York Times today on the Northwest Airlines Flight 188 fiasco. The airline warned pilots at the start of the merger between Delta and Northwest that these sorts of things were possible. “While we cannot minimize distractions from our personal or professional lives, we can mitigate their effects so they do not affect the safety of our airline,” the memo said. “Leave distractions about personal, corporate or other external issues outside of the flight deck.”

Greg Feith, a former NTSB investigator, went on The CBS Early Show this morning and said not all pilots may have known about Delta’s prohibition on laptops in the cockpit and said Northwest Airlines did not have such a policy. Perhaps the distraction was a conversation among the pilots about whether they could be surfing on their laptops.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic’s James Fallows, a pilot, gets it right when he describes just how unbelievable the pilots’ current story is:

The difficulty for the pilots is that the version of the story they’re resisting — that they simply fell asleep — is less damning for them than any alternative version. If they fell asleep, that’s bad, but they could argue some kind of force majeure. But if their “heated conversation” (previous story) or intense laptop use (current story) kept them from remembering their most elemental responsibility as pilots, that really is beyond the pale. The closest comparison would be, say, to an operating-room team that got so interested in watching a football game on TV that they sliced open a patient but forgot to take out his appendix. Forgetting where you are going is incredible enough on its own. And not having any back-of-mind nag saying, “Wait a minute, we haven’t heard anything on the air-traffic control frequency for a while” also is outside any known experience of the professional flight-crew world.

In other words: Somebody’s lying about what happened.


Citing the “rapid increase in illness,” President Obama has declared a national emergency to help officials deal with H1N1 flu. How has the spread of H1N1 affected your workplace?


This afternoon, I’ll have another installment of the continuing News Cut series, “The Unemployed.” If you’re jobless and want to be included in the series, contact me.

Midmorning (9 – 11 a.m.) – First hour: Historians Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh both say they entered the profession to have a better understanding of how the world we live in came to be. That’s the driving force behind their scholarship, and the basis for their radio show.

Second hour: You probably have plants in your garden, weeds that annoy you. Author Amy Stewart investigates the plants that kill, if you get too close.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Garrison Keillor, speaking at the Barnes and Noble in Edina about his writing, and reading from his new book, “Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance.”

Talk of the Nation (1 – 3 p.m.) – First hour: It’s been three years since Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” made “green” good — and put climate change on diverse agendas. Now a new Pew survey finds that concern about global warming is waning. What’s causing this change in attitudes?

Second hour: Afghan politician Malalai Joya on her new book, “A Woman among Warlords.”

All Things Considered (3 – 6:30 p.m.) – Where do Minnesota’s legislators stand on the public option for health insurance. The U.S. Senate bill will give state’s the option of opting out. MPR’s Tom Scheck is on the story.

MPR’s Tom Weber has a comprehensive look at what school districts are asking voters to approve this fall.

David Schaper has the story of what happened when some black students were kept out of a bar in Washington state because they were wearing baggy clothes.

NPR’s Martin Kaste has the second part of his series on the end of privacy.

  • Jim Belich

    Re #1: I would disagree that this is an instance of people wanting the church and state merged, rather that people believe they should be able to co-exist. There seems to be a trend today to go beyond a separation of church and state to an isolation of church and state, which I think is more than was ever intended. Cheerleaders painting banners with Bible verses does not violate the separation of church and state (this was something that individuals decided to do, it’s not an official school policy to bring religious verses to games), any more than if they painted verses from the Koran, but it does require church and state to get together in the same room (or arena, as it were) and be civil to one another. I am troubled by the growing mentality that faith is something to keep in the privacy of your own home, but not to ever be brought out into the public sphere. If you hold to a particular faith, whatever it is, that faith is in integral part of who you are and to say it cannot be expressed in a public way goes beyond separation in a way that itself violates our First Amendment rights.

  • Tyler

    Slightly more info with discussionhere.

    A description of the software pilots are expected to use (and were supposedly looking over in the cockpit) here.

  • bob

    Regarding faith and football — It all misses the point, which is that faith is a personal matter. I don’t want to be subjected to religious displays in places where they don’t belong; school-sanctioned football games clearly fall into that category. Sharing faith is what churches and other chosen avenues of fellowship are for.

    And spare me the plaint that we’ve taken faith out of the schools; anyone is free to pray silently in school all day long if they want to, read their Bible in the school library or study hall, and to join other student believers in Bible studies after school, using school facilities.

    Regarding the pilots, I think what’s going to be revealed is that they were surfing porn – or worse, texting.

  • Jim Belich

    Actually I wasn’t trying to say at all that faith has been removed from the schools, as what you say is true (with the exception that some schools have forbidden Bible studies on school grounds, but I don’t think that’s the majority). My point was that faith, while personal, does have a public element and that just because we have separation of church and state does not mean there isn’t a place for faith in the public sphere. There is, I think, a growing expectation in our society that any expression of faith should remain at home or at church, and not expressed anywhere in public, an expectation that I find both unrealistic and contrary to the intention of the First Amendment.

  • Jim!!!

    You can display your faith in public all you want. Just remember you don’t have the right not to be ridiculed or mocked. Three cheers for Goldie Gopher!

  • Bismuth

    Players, fans, coaches, etc. still have a right to their freedom of expression at a public event, whether or not everyone present thinks it is appropriate. If it becomes disruptive or harassing, that’s a different matter, but I don’t see how a few signs cross that line. Protesters do the same thing (and usually worse) every day in parks and city halls across the nation; I find them annoying as heck, but I’ve yet to let them get in my way of enjoying whatever I’m doing. The cost of leaving and missing out on a football game is worse than staying around some signs with which I’m not comfortable.

    High school games also sometimes featuresigns or flyers or announcements or fundraisers for other unrelated student activities like music, drama, FFA or what have you. These groups aren’t always tied directly to the school. Yet no one seems to have a problem letting them promote themselves.

  • JohnnyZoom

    >> battle between those wanting to keep church and state separate, and those who prefer it to be merged

    Indeed the latter is a straw man, and its inclusion makes a pathetic false dichotomy. It is disappointing to see that reported in such language in such a venerable outlet. Editorial control almost as sloppy as certain recent airline cockpit behaviors.

    Speaking of which:

    >>In other words: Somebody’s lying about what happened.

    I am not sure I understand how this is being concluded. All I can see is that there was an incentive to lie, not that they indeed did. I don’t see how that they made up a story to put themselves in a worse light can be concluded here.

    >>you don’t have the right not to be ridiculed or mocked. Three cheers for Goldie Gopher!

    I assume this was just a really tasteless joke. We have no more freedom from others’ bigotry as we do from their greed or avarice (say). (The only relevant freedoms we have here are to not be them ourselves) But we’d all be better off without others displaying such things. So asserting disapproval should be a no brainer.

    >>These groups aren’t always tied directly to the school. Yet no one seems to have a problem letting them promote themselves.

    That distinction helps point out that while the First Amendment was written to protect believers from the State, some now wish to use it to protect the State (or the public) from believers [sic]. Those other groups clearly do not have similar adversarial advocacy movements. But then, what would they look like, and just how absurd would they be?

  • Bob Collins

    //I am not sure I understand how this is being concluded

    Fallows doesn’t believe either story.

  • JackU

    I jump into the fray on #1 as well. If you watch baseball (at least at the Major League level) there is plenty of obvious religious gesturing going on. So I don’t think there’s more of it in football but the nature of the game makes it easier to do things as a group.

    @Jim: It does matter. While your faith is important to you, and we assume to the cheerleaders in that story, they do represent the school. What about the kids whose beliefs and/or religion are not reflected in Bible verses? If they were to take offense at the signs and complain, would that be okay? And if they did what would you recommend to the school?

    On Flight 188: The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that the pilots are being thrown overboard to protect something else. I mean the story sounds so ludicrous that it must be hiding some sort of equipment/communication malfunction. 😉

  • kennedy

    //Why does football and religion seem to be linked more than say, the band and religion in schools?

    Many college choirs sing religious songs and have concerts centered on religious holidays. They are typically not televised and thus generate less interest/conflict.

    I appreciate the tight rope public schools must walk between acceptance and endorsement. Cheerleaders in uniform are representing the school. Them presenting religious messages to the fans is toward the wrong side of the gray area.

  • God is my POM POM

    I am wondering what is written on these signs that everyone is so appauled about?

    Does anyone know what scripture they are toting?

  • Bob Collins

    Follow the link for the answer.

  • God is my POM POM

    i followed the link…

    that’s it?

    that’s whats causing the uproar?

    so what is the difference between a sign that says : sock it to me Jesus, race for the cure or save the bees?