I had thought this was going to be yet another quiet Sunday, where the most I might do is watch CBS Sunday Morning, make breakfast for my wife and myself, perhaps watch some auto racing or golf and enjoy the company of my step-grandson when he and his mom came over in the evening. It was almost true, right up to when my inbox alerted me with a note from a friend at the Northern Ohio Freethought Society. It referred to a recent piece from The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, who had learned of some interesting activity going on in my home state. That activity consisted of a grant by our Attorney General, Mike DeWine, in the amount of $300,000 to an organization known as Athletes in Action. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have any problem with our state supporting athletics, except that this particular outfit is publicly, unabashedly Christian. Indeed, part of their promotional literature states:
Since 1966, Athletes in Action has been using sports as a platform to help people answer questions of faith and to point them to Jesus … Ultimately , our goal is to see peoples’ lives changed as they discover God’s purpose for their life. We dream of a day when there are Christ-followers on every team, in sport, in every nation. We believe this is possible when organizations and individuals – who want every athlete to know someone who truly follows Jesus – work together toward the common goal of furthering God’s kingdom.
I was pleased to note that the FFRF, the parent organization under which the Northern Ohio Freethought Society operates, had already sent DeWine a letter, noting to the Attorney General the illegality of his office’s actions, with a recommendation for “corrective action.” That note was supported by at least one more from an NOFS member. Having seen that, I figured it was time to throw in my $0.02 as well:
I just learned via an article on patheos.com that your office has given a grant worth $300,000 to an organization known as Athletes in Action, which is openly Christian in its structure and intentions. As both a taxpayer and an atheist, I am disturbed by an action which is clearly contrary to the separation of church and state which is at the foundation both of the United States and the state of Ohio. I have to ask, if you were approached by a similar organization founded and supported by Muslims, would you be as willing to open the State’s pocketbook for them? Personally, I’d be seriously dubious, as you should be. This country was founded on the idea that NO religion gets preferential treatment over another and indeed that the state should have no significant interaction with ANY religious organization, certainly not any monetary interaction.
I would heartily recommend that this action be retracted forthwith and that no future grants of this type are considered in the future. You owe it to the non-Christians of the Buckeye State at the very least.
Loren C. Miller, Jr.
The above went both to the Attorney General’s website and by standard mail to his office.
Make no mistake about it: there are public officials out there who think they can take such actions and, if they are not overtly public, get away with them. To those of you who are also Ohioans, I urge you: get in the fight. Write DeWine and let him know that we won’t tolerate this brand of blatant favoritism. DeWine doesn’t just work for Christians; he damned well better work for all of us.