Playing Hard Ball | Sojourners

Playing Hard Ball

The debate about the place of religion in the public sphere continues to be played out in all aspects of our society, even on the fields of America's national pastime, baseball. Rev. Guy Aubrey has reached a settlement in a case that started during the 1990 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Oakland As, when his "John 3:16" banner was confiscated for being against the Reds' policy restricting religious banners.

After the U.S. District Court ruled the policy unconstitutional, the Cincinnati Reds attempted to block all non-commercial signs from their stadium, but soon gave up. The Reds, the city of Cincinnati, and Hamilton County paid Aubrey $20,000 to settle the case. Aubrey's legal struggle was aided by the Rutherford Institute, an organization that specializes in the defense of religious liberty. He will donate his share of the settlement to a church in Mexico.

However, religious statements are not likely to be seen at the ballpark of Downey High School in California. The school district there is stopping the efforts of a local businessman who wants to post the Ten Commandments on the advertising space he purchased at the school's baseball diamond. The school district's attorneys believe they have a clear case on the basis of the First Amendment, which provides for the separation of church and state.

"I'm not trying to sell religion," said businessman Ed DiLoreto, "I'm trying to sell rules to live by."

But, asked the Los Angeles Times, "What's a base runner to do if he looks to the centerfield fence and sees 'Thou shalt not steal'?"

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1997
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