Thursday, August 17, 2000

Sports face determined opponent in ministers

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANDERSON TOWNSHIP — The U.S. Constitution doesn't cover it, but mixing church and sports has become as aggravating to a group of ministers as the separation of church and state.

        They have asked youth sports groups to try to avoid scheduling games on Sunday that interfere with worship services.

        The Southeast Ecumenical Ministry Group has sent letters protesting the problem to east side school districts and other groups.

        “We want to alert them to the conflict caused when they schedule games and don't consider church services,” said the Rev. Dan Sather, pastor of Faith United Church of Christ in Anderson Township. “What this is doing is putting people in the position of attending the Sunday church service or going to other activities.”

        He said although his worship service is finished at 11:30 a.m., it is still hard for his child, who plays soccer, to get to a 1 p.m. game.

        “Most of the time it works out OK, but a lot of times the games are far away and sometimes there are other activities at church following worship service,” the Rev. Mr. Sather said.

        He talked about a total disregard of Sunday worship by many groups, which he sees as harmful to family bonds.

        “Schools and colleges will schedule graduation services on Sundays that conflict with worship service. We talk about the strength of the American family based on religious principles, then we turn around and destroy the very principle on which that strength is built,” he said.

        Jim Waldron, president of the Girls Southeast Cincinnati Soccer Association, said they try to schedule most games on Sunday afternoons to avoid conflicts with Sunday morning worship.

        “We know some games do conflict with the Sunday service, but roughly 80 to 90 percent of our games are either weekdays or Sunday afternoons,” he said.

        Molly McClure, executive director of the Anderson Park District, said the scheduling is out of the district's hands.

        “The sports groups rent space from us and they have to work with the scheduling problems,” she said.

        Rita Blake of Anderson Township has not had a conflict with church services and games scheduled for her two soccer-playing sons, Adam, 10 and Brian, 13.

        “We are Catholics, and there are many services we can attend other than the Sunday morning services,” she said. “We have Saturday services and early morning services on Sunday. We have been able to keep up the soccer game schedules and attend church also.”

        The Rev. Mr. Sather said they want to raise the issue, but have not scheduled any meetings with school districts or sports groups.


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