First Amendment question from tmatt: What happens if Dallas Cowboys offer visible prayers?

First Amendment question from tmatt: What happens if Dallas Cowboys offer visible prayers?

We will open this religion-beat NFL update with a confession, a comment and then a question.

The confession: I grew up in Texas in the 1960s and '70s as a loyal Dallas Cowboys fan, in the era of Coach Tom Landry and the great Roger Staubach. I now cheer against the Cowboys and consider the current owner to be the younger brother of the Antichrist. So there.

A comment: I understand that NFL owners consider their stadiums to be professional "workplace" environments. Thus, they argue that they have the right to create rules governing the behavior of their employees. However, some of us First Amendment liberals would like to note that significant chunks of the funds used to build many, maybe most, of these structures came from local and state governments. Are we talking about public or private buildings?

The question: I realize that many NFL big shots, and the journalists who cover them, have a problem with demonstrations of religious faith. However, shouldn't reporters be including the word "pray" in their reports about the national anthem wars, as well as the word "protest"?

What happens if, during the upcoming season, one or more players: (a) Kneel and bow their heads in prayer? (b) Prostrate, face down, assuming a prayer position common in many Eastern faiths? (c) Stand, but raise their hands in a "charismatic" prayer gesture, with their lips moving in silent speech? (d) What if players make the sign of the cross and combine this with (a), (b) or (c)?

Protest or prayer? Maybe reporters need to ask if the correct answer is "both"?

The spark for this GetReligion meditation is, of course, the back-and-forth shots by Donald Trump and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Here is the top of the latest report from The New York Times.

The Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, no stranger to speaking his mind and creating controversy, on Wednesday added fuel to an already confusing and rancorous debate about how the N.F.L. plans to handle players who demonstrate during the playing of the national anthem this season.

At the opening of the Cowboys’ training camp in Oxnard, Calif., Jones said that all his team’s players would be required to stand on the field for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They would not be able to stay in the team’s locker room, something allowed under the league’s revised policy on the anthem.

“Our policy is you stand during the anthem, toe the line,” Jones told reporters.

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Taking out the pews, taking out the pews, we will come prostrating, taking out the pews

Taking out the pews, taking out the pews, we will come prostrating, taking out the pews

Now here is a sad little story from this land of ours in which almost anything can be turned into a match to light the fuse on a new battle in the culture wars.

In this case we are not talking about a battle in pews -- because the story focuses on pews that were removed.

Let's go straight to the place that most educators across the country will see the story -- The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Changes in the interior design of a campus chapel at Wichita State University -- lambasted in some online circles as the work of Muslim students -- were, in fact, suggested by Christian staff members and students. The Wichita Eagle reports a former campus minister told the newspaper that removing Grace Memorial Chapel’s pews was intended to make the space more flexible, and that he had suggested the change.
But that’s not how Jean Ann Cusick, an alumna of the Kansas university, saw it. In a Facebook post this month, Ms. Cusick wrote that the changes in the chapel were an “accommodation” of Muslim students. Soon, news outlets like Fox News and Christian Today were weighing in.

Now a personal word. I must admit that the first thing that popped into my mind when I connected "pews" with "remove" -- in the context of Wichita -- was, I am sure, not a connection that would have made sense to others.

The first thing that I thought of was the nationally known establishment called Eighth Day Books -- which may be the best Eastern Orthodox bookstore (mixing in coffee, tea and beer) in all of North America. This is evidence of a very lively and growing Orthodox community in that zip code and I assumed -- naturally! -- that this might have led to a thriving community of Orthodox students on the major campus in town.

Now you know what ancient Christians like the Orthodox are going to want to do with pews, don't you? Get. Rid. Of. Them.

Think tradition! It's hard to do lots of bows and prostrations in a room full of wooden furniture. Right?

But, alas, this was not what people were worried about.

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