THE BLOG
09/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Proselytizing Olympic Coach: 'Christians Have An Empty Mind'

U.S. Olympic coach bringin' 'em to Jesus (Kisik Lee)
Looks like we have another proselytizing episode like the one that afflicted the U.S. Air Force Academy, in which the chaplains were pressuring students to become evangelical Christians. In this case, the Olympic archery coach, a former South Korean coach who found Jesus in 1999, has been baptizing athletes in his charge and proselytizing them:

Two weeks before leaving to compete in the Olympics, the archer Brady Ellison waded into a pool not far from the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and was baptized in the Christian faith.

In the water with him was Kisik Lee, the head coach of the United States archery team and a Christian who has become a spiritual guide for Ellison, 19, and the larger group of athletes who train and live full time at the Olympic Training Center. He has also served as a sponsor in the baptism of three other resident archers.

During the Olympics, Lee and at least three of the five United States archers who qualified to compete in Beijing met every morning to sing hymns and read from the Bible, and to attend church together in the chapel at the Olympic Village.

Oh and in case you're wondering--Lee absolutely doesn't play favorites in his coaching:

Lee said coaching was more of a challenge for him when members of the team did not share his beliefs.

"I don't want to have any favorites," he said. "I would love to be fair for everyone. But sooner or later, if they can see through me God, that's what I want to try to do. I'm not God, and I can't drive them to God, but I can pray for them."

It appears that a gold-starved U.S. Olympic Commitee is willing to overlook such egregious behavior if it might lead to medals for its athletes. But even the U.S.O.C. isn't aware of how relentless is Lee's evangelizing:

Lee was warned by U.S.O.C. officials, who oversee the center, not to pressure athletes to participate in religious activities.

"The U.S.O.C. explained that athletes are free to choose their religious preferences and it cannot be a condition of participation on any team or camp," John Ruger, the athlete ombudsman for the U.S.O.C, said in an e-mail message. Ruger said that he identified the issue while looking into other matters of "team dynamics," and that no athlete had formally complained.

"Some athletes do have an athlete-generated daily Bible session at the O.T.C., but participation is voluntary as far as the U.S.O.C. knows and the coach does not attend," Ruger said.

Yet Lee said he had continued to pray with the Christian athletes in morning sessions at the center.

Certainly makes you wonder what else the U.S.O.C. doesn't know, or doesn't want to know, about this coach's behavior.

And it isn't often that a reporter is gifted such a interviewee who damns himself with so little prompting:

To be an effective archer, Lee said, athletes must learn to clear their heads and focus. "If you are Christian," he said, "then people can have that kind of empty mind."

Well, you know what he meant to say but still, it's instructive in its way. The religious intolerance of Lee comes across in the following:

Asked if people of other faiths could learn to focus in the same way, Lee said he was not sure.

"Maybe," he said. "But for me this is the best answer. So that's why I'm encouraging people to be the same as me."

The word "clueless" comes to mind. I don't blame the coach. He's a creature of his own habits. But I do blame the U.S.O.C. which clearly cares very little about what its coaches do with their charges as long as they win medals. Note: not a single U.S. archer scored any higher than fifth at Beijing. Serves us right. Get Jesus out of the Olympic training center!