Christian Group Cut From 'Faith Day'

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Florida Marlins, Wednesday, July 26, 2006, in Atlanta.
AP Photo/John Bazemore
The Atlanta Braves will mix baseball with the gospel when they hold another "Faith Day" this weekend. But one of the country's most prominent Christian organizations has been tossed out of the game.

Focus on the Family, a group founded by James Dobson and based in Colorado Springs, Colo., was barred from participating in Sunday's postgame activities after sponsoring the first such event at Turner Field last month.

While the team wouldn't provide a reason for its decision, several gay rights groups on the Web bristled with speculation that Focus on the Family was given the boot for promoting its belief that homosexuality is a social problem comparable to alcoholism, gambling or depression.

The Braves were the first major league team to hold "Faith Day," teaming up with Tennessee-based promoter Third Coast Sports to put on the event after a July 27 game against Florida.

Separate $10 tickets allowed fans to re-enter the left-field bleachers, where a stage was set up along the warning track. Pitcher John Smoltz gave a testimonial and a Christian rock band put on a show.

The Braves plan the same sort of event after Sunday's game against Milwaukee, this time with former Atlanta first baseman Sid Bream as the featured speaker. However, Focus on the Family won't be one of the sponsors.

The group released a statement Friday saying the July 27 event "was first class and exceeded our expectations," but added that the Braves didn't want them to take part in the Faith Days scheduled for August.

"For Focus on the Family, our involvement in Faith Days is all about being there to support the marriage and parenting needs of families," said Rich Bennett, the group's marketing director. "The Braves game in July was a great experience for us, and we are looking forward to participating in other Faith Days and Faith Nights events with Third Coast Sports in the future."