(Photo: St. Paul Saints Baseball Club)
A Minnesota minor league baseball team will be changing its name as part of an atheist-themed event set to take place in August.
The St. Paul Saints will change their name to "Mr. Paul Aints" as part of "A Night of Unbelievable Fun," which will be sponsored by the American Atheists and Minnesota Atheists organizations.
For the baseball game featured, the Saints will wear different jerseys with the alternate name and the S in Saints will be covered up across the Midway Stadium ballpark.
Tom Whaley, executive vice president for the St. Paul Saints Baseball Club, Inc., told The Christian Post that the team regularly changes its name and uses alternate jerseys for special events.
"Last season, to show support for the Minnesota Vikings who were playing a playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, we changed our name for a game to The Paul," said Whaley.
"Three to four times per season, we wear alternate jerseys to fit the theme … for a Jewish Heritage Night, we printed up T-shirts that had the word, 'Saints,' spelled in Hebrew. For this game, we are changing our name for the game. It goes back to St. Paul Saints the following day."
The Saints have received several emails from people expressing dismay at the atheist-themed event.
Pastor Gerald Stephens, president of the Minnesota Baptist Association of Churches, told CP that he felt the event "is an attack against principles that I believe in and that our country was founded upon."
"I personally have attended Saints games in the past and enjoyed the family atmosphere and the spirit of fun that is found in baseball," said Stephens, speaking on his own behalf.
"When it becomes a means of supporting those who mock the very foundation of our great nation I will voice my opposition and will no longer continue to attend any of the Saints baseball games."
Whaley explained that the Saints have also sponsored religious events, including several "Faith Nights" and a special event earlier this week for Lutheran Social Services.
"We have hosted Christian concerts. Our players have made available to them each Sunday home game the services of Baseball Chapel, in the event they cannot get to church," said Whaley.
"Our all-time winningest pitcher was going through Divinity School when he was a player here and is now an ordained minister in Northfield, Minnesota. One of our current pitchers does religious-oriented missionary work in Africa."
The "Night of Unbelievable Fun" will be part of the Minnesota Regional Atheist Conference, a two-day event organized by the nationwide group American Atheists and the local group Minnesota Atheists.
August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists, told CP the atheist-themed baseball event and the conference came about when Saints officials saw some MA campaign billboards.
"Someone from the promotional department of the St. Paul Saints baseball team contacted Minnesota Atheists and asked if we wanted to sponsor a game," said Berkshire. "I have been to many American Atheists conferences and some of them have had extra events tied to them, but to my knowledge never a sports game."