“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Work at a Summer Camp That Bans Talk of God?”

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Q: I am planning on being a teen counselor at a local summer camp this coming year. This is something I really want to do, and I have been planning on doing this for years. The only problem is, since it is a secular camp, we are absolutely not allowed to talk at all about religion. I figure, however, that I can be a good influence anyway by the way I act and treat people. But I am still worried. Is it sinful to go to a secular camp where you are not allowed to talk about God and religion? Their camp isn’t anti-Christian; it’s just a “no sensitive topics” zone. Thanks! -S.G.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: In an age when there are virtually no limits on what people can post on the Internet or put on TV, it seems ironic that the only thing the camp bans is talk of religion.

It is understandable that a non-religious camp would want to avoid counselors using their positions to proselytize youngsters. But to ban all talk of religion categorically ahead of time seems extreme.

Nevertheless, I admire your desire to witness to your faith through your example.

Perhaps you can honor the letter of the law — and not speak overtly about any specific religion — but you could speak toward the youngsters’ needs in terms of virtues and morality. To prepare yourself you might want to read up on these areas. Suggested reading could include Peter Kreeft’s books “Making Choices” and “Back to Virtue.”

Perhaps, too, you could leave signs of your faith around, such as a Bible, or wear a discreet emblem such as a cross or an image of Our Lady.

You might want to intensify your prayer life in order to prepare for an aggressively secular environment. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start praying for the young people you will be counseling at the camp.

Brace yourself, too, in case you receive blow-back from the camp. As a last resort you might need to look for more God-friendly camps.

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