(Smoltzie thanks the sparse crowd for refraining from marrying animals)

I think we’re all in agreeance that when the great American man of letters, Fred Durst sang “you gotta have faith”, he understood that faith comes in many shapes and sizes, not merely Christianity. The Atlanta Braves, however, chose to open the Turner Field gates to a rather narrow range of religious groups promoting a “Faith Day” last Thursday. Said clumsy cross-promotion, as noted in this space last week, didn’t escape the notice of persons who’d prefer that John Smoltz (above) pitch rather than preach.

From Southern Voice’s Dynana Bagby (link taken from Baseball Think Factory

Focus on the Family was on the team that promoted Major League Baseball™s first œFaith Days event at Turner Field July 27, but the Atlanta Braves now say the anti-gay group headed by James Dobson is no longer part of its lineup.

œWe have asked the promoter [Nashville-based Third Coast Sports] to not include Focus on the Family in our other two Faith Day events, Beth Marshall, Braves spokesperson, said Aug. 1. œWe do not feel it is an appropriate connection for Focus on the Family to be part of this event.

At the Braves game July 27, in which the Atlanta team was trounced by the Florida Marlins 6-1, Focus on the Family representatives passed out materials about its programs. Some of the programs highlighted at the game, according to the Focus on the Family™s website, included its Focus on Parenting program (www.focusonyourchild.com), which features a œHot Topic about children and homosexuality and how gay activist groups are œtargeting public schools. Other materials passed out included a packet on Troubledwith.com, a website for individuals and families in crisis that also lists homosexuality as a topic./p>

Rev. Paul Graetz, senior pastor of the gay First Metropolitan Community Church of Atlanta, said news that the Braves allowed Focus on the Family to distribute its anti-gay materials inside Turner Field jeopardizes the team™s popularity among gay fans.

œPeople come to see a baseball game, not be exposed to politics or religion, he said. œI think it™s a smart move by the Braves to move away from Focus on the Family.

Focus on the Family™s rhetoric against gays ” including its renowned endorsements of reparative therapy, or the œex-gay movement ” has no place in Turner Field, Graetz added.

œThey have not cornered the market on Christianity. The Christian voice is a diverse voice, he said. œAnd a baseball game is a neutral place for the purpose of watching a game. It™s an all-American sport that should be just that ” an evening out to socialize.