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Suns hope there are angels in the courtroom

July 07, 1999

And the trial drags on. In a controversy that should have been settled over a couple of plastic cups of beer in the bleachers, agnostic Carl Silverman and Class A Hagerstown Suns owner Winston Blenckstone spent the better part of last week in a state hearing room wrangling over whether a church bulletin makes an acceptable discount coupon.

If we weren't spending tax money to have this resolved, it would be hilarious. As it is, though, it's only extremely funny.

Ever the astute businessman, six years ago Blenckstone realized this Washington County truth. Tons of people here go to church. If he could just encourage this good, wholesome group to engage in good, wholesome entertainment on Sunday afternoons, it might increase his gate. So he offered a couple of bucks off at the turnstiles to anyone who produced a church bulletin.

Silverman, who is the Tri-State's Madeline Murray O'Hair took the religious promotion to court, calling it a breach in the Wall of Separation.

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An enthusiastic woman meeting Mark Twain for the first time said "My, how God must love you." Twain watched her walk off, then turned slowly to his companion and said "Apparently she hasn't heard of our strained relations."

I'm sort of in the same fix, but somehow I don't see a $2 discount to a baseball game as much of a threat to the most lofty amendment to our mighty Constitution.

I'd always thought the idea was to discourage religious favoritism, not to wipe all evidence of it from public eye. Now if Blenckstone were giving a discount at the publicly owned stadium only to people with a Catholic church bulletin, or if he were giving preferential treatment to Methodists (free admission to anyone bringing a covered dish) that might be another matter.

Personally, I think a test of the Second Amendment would be more interesting: Two bucks off to anyone showing up at the stadium carrying a gun. Think of the possibilities. A couple of people would be shot over beers, police would try to end the practice as unsafe and Blenckstone would defend himself in court, buoyed by all that Washington County you-can-have-my-gun-when-you-pry-it-out-of-my-cold-dead-fingers weaponry enthusiasm.

For drama, a church bulletin just isn't as exciting. Yet by mid-week the trial was in its third day and counting. O.J. didn't go this long. Any time now they're going to be hauling out the Blenckstone DNA evidence and arguing that those bulletins were planted by a rogue usher.

The Maryland Human Relations Commission, which believes Silverman has a point, wants the Suns to end the promotion, peel off the halo emblems they've affixed to their uniforms in support of the promotion and, my favorite, provide sensitivity training for team officials.

One thing I would definitely pay full admission for is to see a religion-sensitivity trainer sitting down with the Suns grounds crew to explain the ins and outs of ecumenical Taoism vis-a-vis the druidic convergence on shamanic Norse seashell worshipers.

I also hope that, out in California, the Anaheim Angels are paying close attention. If things fall the wrong way, Silverman might have a go at them next. Their uniform logo, after all, does include - dare I say - a halo.

You smirk, but courts can be quirky and one day we might wake up to find ourselves checking the box scores for the Anaheim Antichrists.

In the end, though, I believe Silverman's point is proved: For if there were a God, He would never allow such empty bickering and legalistic folly to transgress at taxpayers' expense. Unless, of course, on occasion even He appreciates a good belly laugh.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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