When I was a little kid, my cousin, who was an actual Catholic Arch Bishop (Archbishop of Anchorage) came over to the house one day, and I saw family elders approach him, one by one, genuflect and kiss his ring. Then one or two of my relatives brought him sacred objects for him to bless. One of the objects was the wooden cross that hung on our wall, similar to others hanging on Catholic walls in other Catholic homes, near the main entrance way to the house. It was hollow and included several items that would be used for the performance of either extreme unction (the “last rights”) or, if necessary, an exorcism. Two candles, some holy water, the instruction manuals for last rights and exorcism, etc.

Other sacred objects were brought to him as well (rosaries, a bottle of magic oil, etc.) and he blessed them all.

So, not wanting to be left out, I brought him my football helmet, which, grinning, he happily blessed as well.

Then I brought him my teddy bear, which he also blessed.

Then, when I was on my way to bringing him my Bop the Beetle game to bless, someone tackled me and put an end to that nonsense.

And all that was OK, because it was all done in the privacy of our own home. But it is NOT ok to systematically bless the football helmets in a public high school. Even if your team really sucks and you are desperate.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation fired off a letter to the Redlands [Calif.] Unified School District over a serious violation of the separation of church and state occurring at Redlands High School football practices and games. A complainant informed FFRF, which has over 15,500 members nationwide and 2,450 members in California, that the team and coach regularly recite the Lord’s Prayer and traditionally open the first practice of the season with a “blessing of the helmets.”

“First and foremost, it is illegal for a public school athletic coach to be leading his team in prayer,” remarked FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott. “The Supreme Court has continually struck down formal and teacher or school-led prayer in public schools.”

“Federal law dictates that government employees must refrain from actively participating in religious activities while acting within their governmental role to avoid any perception of government endorsement of religion,” the Foundation’s letter noted.



  1. #1 Roy Macarthur
    October 7, 2010

    If this is a serious violation is there any such thing as a minor violation?

  2. #2 Ken
    October 7, 2010

    Obviously @1 is a xtian.

    Its a very serious violation if the dogma you were born into punishes you for even passively taking part in the voodoo of another religion

  3. #3 Drivebyposter
    October 7, 2010

    If this is a serious violation is there any such thing as a minor violation?

    The Catholic Church seems to have been violating minors for decades…

    But anyways, they may mean serious in the sense that “you better f*cking stop this or you are going to get sued and lose”
    and besides, teacher/coach led prayer isn’t serious enough for you? It’s been specifically pointed out as a major no-no for a long time now. They have no reason to not know this.

  4. #4 ppnl
    October 7, 2010

    It’s no more serious than the trivial transgression of the coach leading the team in a Muslim prayer. We all know that there would be no objection to that. Hell the librul judge that hears it is probably a secrut moslem anyway. Dammed judicial activists.

  5. #5 Ivan
    October 7, 2010

    Last “rights”?

    “You have the right to remain dead. Anything naughty you did in life can and will be used against you when you appear before a strangely faceless* god in the afterlife.”

    *see Chick, Jack.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    October 7, 2010

    Ivan, yes, that’s exactly what it said inside the cross!

    “If you cannot afford a coffin one will be loaned to you without charge”

    (Little known fact: Most English and probably many other Europeans who were placed in a coffin after their death during the late middle ages up through the start of the 18th century or so were dumped out of the coffin at the grave. The coffin was just to carry the body around in, not to bury the body in. “Nails don’t grow on trees, and we’re out of trees, too!” would have been an appropriate aphorism of the day. )

  7. #7 Pohranicni Straze
    October 8, 2010

    So did you notice any functional benefits from the blessed football helmet? And if so, what magnitude of benefit is an archbishop’s blessing good for? Are we talking a basic +1 Football Helmet, or a +5 Helm of Tackle Deflection?

  8. #8 Zeno
    October 8, 2010

    Come to think of it, I believe the big crucifix in my parents’ room was one of those extreme unction versions. I recall that the back slid off to reveal candles, holy water, and a vial of oil. I had quite forgotten. (I wonder if it’s still where I last saw it.)

  9. #9 Phillip IV
    October 8, 2010

    When I was a little kid, my cousin, who was an actual Catholic Arch Bishop (Archbishop of Anchorage) came over to the house one day, and I saw family elders approach him, one by one, genuflect and kiss his ring.

    “Daddy, why do all the people kneel and kiss cousin Vito Corleone’s ring?”

    “Uh…you see…he’s…uh, ah bishop! Yeah, that’s it. He’s a bishop, bambino. Right.”

  10. #10 felgi
    October 8, 2010

    People let’s remember about different people in countries like this. Let’s stop the war!

  11. #11 Virgil Samms
    October 8, 2010
  12. #12 Virgil Samms
    October 8, 2010

    The ‘Angry Atheist of Champaign’

    A documentary about McCollum v. Board of Education, a landmark case on religious instruction in public schools. Unfortunately the author of the article is confused about which side was violating the first amendment.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    October 8, 2010

    Pohranicni: My head was never possessed by daemons after that.

    Zeno, yes, that’s it. Go check it out and look for the instructions.

    Phillip … well, yes, that happened too, but that was a different day, different person, different story.

  14. #14 Dude
    October 9, 2010

    If you guys are the ones sueing redlands high school for the football team doing little prayers before games… you srsly need a life… all of you ur just butt hurt i think

  15. #15 Drivebyposter
    October 10, 2010

    Yes Dude, we, specifically posting comments on this blog, are “sueing” the coach. You are totally right about that.
    We may need a life, but you need a basic English education.