‘Free Soccer Camp’ Turns Out To Be ‘Free Jesus Camp’ And Pisses Parents Off

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NYC-free-soccer-camp-teaches-bibleSome parents in Queens are a little miffed at a “free soccer camp” that actually turned out to be a “free soccer and Jesus camp” and I can’t say that I blame them at all.

According to DNAinfo New York, the camp has been in session since the first of June, where about 15 kids between the ages of eight and 13 have been attending to learn a little bit about dribbling and offense and a little about the good news. At the camp’s peak attendance period, over 60 kids of all ages participated.

The camp did not require any sign up or parental consent, and even though some parents with kids in the camp are annoyed at the lack of transparency regarding post-speed drill parables, Jigar Desai, the main facilitator of the camp doesn’t see the problem, saying that:

“We’re just telling stories about the Bible. We’re not here to convert anybody…We don’t have the power to do that. We’re here to tell stories and have God in their hearts.”

If the goal (ha) is to get kids to have ‘God in their hearts’, than I have some news for you, dude: you’re trying to convert them.

I don’t have a problem with Christianity or any religion. I’m an atheist, and I am raising a child, but there really isn’t a way to raise an “atheist” child. You just raise a kid and try to not be a dick about everyone else’s beliefs without confusing your kid too much. Because the vast majority of people in this country practice some kind of religion, and because most of those are Christian, it would be naive and idiotic of me to try and keep my child from ever being exposed to religious teachings, nor would I want to.

However, I – and other parents like me – also want to have some kind of control over how that exposure happens at this age; something that you can’t really do if someone doesn’t tell you that they’ll be preaching dogma to your kids after speed drills.

The reactions from parents have ranged to “that’s fucked up!”, according to the mother of a six-year-old who only found out about the religious tilt later:

“These soccer missionaries did not declare that there was going to be any religious discussion when we sent our child for soccer…What they did was solicitation of a minor without any disclosure or parental consent. If we wanted to go to Sunday school we would make a fully informed decision to go there.”

and, “not cool, Broseph”,

“You’ve got to tell people you’re going to give religious education,” mom Jaymie Adachi told Joseph. “Just be straightforward with people. It sounds to me that people don’t know.”

But the director of the Community center where the camp takes place doesn’t agree:

“In America we pride ourselves on openness and freedom and if we start saying ‘if there’s any religious content it’s banned,’ then we’re in a Socialist-Communist-Fascist state,”

Hmm. No one’s calling for a ban. There just asking you to add “And Jesus Time” to your “Free Soccer Camp” sign. I can’t speak for the religious makeup of Jackson Heights, but I know that in most places, a religiously-tilted Soccer Camp would still draw a healthy crowd, especially if it’s free. A lie of omission is still a lie, right? What would Jesus do?

The upshot is that it looks like the organizers took the criticism to heart and that next year they’ll be seeking parental consent and executing a more transparent enrollment system.

(Image:KBF Media/Shutterstock)