As summer winds down and the leaves begin to turn color, that means one thing for many Americans: football season is starting. But for a now-infamous Kentucky preacher, it means something else entirely: more people going to Hell.

Baptist Preacher Ernie Spence was walking by an athletic field on a recent Sunday afternoon and was shocked to discover a youth football game underway. So disgusted was Spence that these kids were not in church, he picked up his cell phone and began filming a wild rant about how football will be the downfall of our God-fearing republic:

"I see what's wrong with America today," declared Spence. "Whenever your children have got more emphasis on what's going on in the football field than they do the house of God, and people jumpin' and cheerin' up and carryin' on like a bunch of banshee Indians over a kid just running and catching a ball. That's pure ignorance! Pure ignorance!' When these children are burning in Hell, how do you think you gonna feel? But, oh boy, junior can catch a ball, and junior could run. Junior runs straight to hell and you don't care."

He then railed against cheerleaders, equating the young girls at the game (who witnesses report were dressed modestly in shorts and T-shirts) to full-blown sex workers. "You think it's something your little girl can dress up like a prostitute? That's perversion out there whenever they shake their pompoms and shout and cheer and stuff. You need to get them in the house of God, friend," he said.

Needless to say, the video didn't get the positive reception Spence was expecting. The zealous preacher soon decided to delete it, but not before someone else was able to record a copy and repost it:

Parents Fire Back

A parent of one of the cheerleaders at the game was offended by the comments, and contacted Spence directly. "My daughter was cheering at that game and I take that very personal," wrote Mitchell Welty. "Next time I welcome you to find me or any other father in the stands and voice your opinion face to face."

When Spence insisted he was simply "spreading the Word of God" and invited the father to attend his church, Welty replied: "Honestly, it's people like yourself that has driven me and countless others from organized religion. I would be appalled, embarrassed and ashamed to sit and listen to you give a sermon."

Jesus holding a football Is Football Our New Religion?

However extreme his rant, the Kentucky preacher has raised an interesting question: does America's religious-like obsession with football threaten the popularity of actual religion? It's not a far-fetched assumption.

On those gloomy Sundays during fall and winter, how many people would rather skip church and stay home to lie on the couch and watch football? A large segment of the population would probably rather dawn their favorite team jerseys, crack open an ice cold-beer, and sit back to watch the game. Perhaps understandably, the thought of having to get all dressed up to sit in a stuffy church and have some preacher ramble on about the many different ways to mess up in God's eyes is nowhere near as appealing.

The Pigskin God, it must be said, welcomes all fans - black, white, gay, straight, blindly patriotic, and those dedicated to criminal justice reform. Football worship spans culture, class, and creed, encompassing a massive swath of the population. And, though disagreements persist outside the stadium, the Church of Football becomes all-accepting the moment the whistle blows. Can the same be said of traditional religion?

Preacher says youth football players going to hell
Preacher Ernie Spence decided to delete the video of his rant, but not before someone else was able to record a copy and repost it for all to see.


  1. Wuzhu's Avatar Wuzhu

    Baptists condemn Football. Texas burns... ?

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      If there was such a place as Hell such preachers who make such false claims would be the ones who would burn in it.

  1. Guairdean's Avatar Guairdean

    When I was quite young, our preacher started condemning "Worshiping the TV". Mainly, because the men in the congregation wanted to be at home with the TV on for the Noon kickoff. He decided to emphasize the lesson one Sunday and made sure service didn't end until after the kickoff. The deacons called a meeting with him the next week and we never heard that sermon again, and Sunday morning service always finished a little early during football season. I wonder if this preacher will learn the same lesson?

  1. Lori's Avatar Lori

    I don't care for football anymore than I care for the Christian rant. This preacher is a bit off his game, as are so many. Will they all go to hell? Of course not. They may suffer from all the trauma that goes along with the injuries inflicted by football. I knew some really crazy football people that encouraged their son to play. He got a severe head injury and died, so yeah, he probably would have been better off in church. It's a brutal sport and it's hard to believe any parent would want their kid to be involved in it, but they do, and they will. Some will get through it fine and some won't. As for the preacher, he's a self absorbed blowhard. I can find better things to do on a Sunday than go to church or watch football.

    1. michelle's Avatar michelle

      I agree. With what we know now about TBI’s and such I am shocked at any parent that is ok with kids playing the game.

      1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        I also prefer nonviolent sports,like professional wrestling. I've got the first five Wrestlemanias on DVDs. I especially like watching Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre The Giant, in Wrestlemania ll.

      2. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        TBIs aren't as bad as STDs, and on that subject a game of football won't lead to anything worse than locker room banter, that even our good president approves of.

      3. SeekerOfTruth's Avatar SeekerOfTruth

        I do like lingerie football somewhat. ;P

    2. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      If I was a member of his congregation his attacks on the game would undoubtedly lead me to staying home and watching it, especially during his sermons. Unless all of his congregants are as stupid as he undoubtedly hopes they are I hope they'll read this and follow suit.[ They can always say the devil made me do it. And I'd stick up for the devil over something like that.] Personally, I really love the Superbowl (especially the commercials), and wouldn't miss it, just to try to get to christian heaven. It's not worth it. Those Heavenites don't know how to live, and they all have cooties.

    3. Tom B's Avatar Tom B

      Lori...once again, i agree with your writing...i was happy when my son did not want to play gives too many people the ability to feel they are fighting a war, with some of the injuries just as bad...Peace...Tom

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    I'm surprised he didn't wave his jacket at them, like Benny Hinn does, for all the team to fall over!

  1. Hoggdogg's Avatar Hoggdogg


  1. michelle's Avatar michelle

    In my house hockey and baseball are religions. I find comfort in watching baseball. I find comfort in doing my genealogy. I find ZERO comfort going to a house of worship. The only thing I feel there is judgment and hate.

    1. James Jimbo Jones's Avatar James Jimbo Jones


  1. R.L. Knight's Avatar R.L. Knight

    Nah humbug preacher

  1. Katelynne Victoria Shouse's Avatar Katelynne Victoria Shouse

    What a maroon. I wouldn't give a plug nickel for most any sport, football especially, but if the NFL can bring about the downfall of these Zealots.......GO TEAMS!!!

    1. James Jimbo Jones's Avatar James Jimbo Jones


  1. James's Avatar James

    Going to hell? I thought some place in Matthew 7:1-5 it mentioned something to the effect of judgment passing? Besides, going to heaven or hell is where we are NOW. This is it. What we humans make of it & see it as is where we are in the NOW. There is no overt heaven / hell (as we currently understand), after the physical body dies. Any next stage of evolution for our souls (energies) is largely unknown. May it be suggested that one take the inventory of others w/ discretion & wisdom in cases like these. Now I do see a spin how the preacher could be taking the enthusiasm differences between the pews to the playing field. There is one BIG contrast. But, is his "alleged "rant" gonna reach to masses? Maybe if the love offerings in the plate is a focus he can take a pg from the Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen to see how he gets the thunderous applauses to live high on the hog & get his ego boosted.

    1. James's Avatar James

      PS: Unfortunately in a way, he has a point.

      1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        Isn't it a requirement in Christianity for Christians to always only pick and choose what suits them in the bible. I've never heard of a christian doing it any other way.

    2. Carol W Waldenburg's Avatar Carol W Waldenburg

      Now that's a topic you can sink your teeth into - the Joel Osteen preachers. Talk about sin - makes this ranting preacher look like Tinkerbell . . .

  1. power to the people's Avatar power to the people

    Well this "preacher" isn't much different than some of the "preachers" posting comments on the ULC blog.

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      Let's hope that preacher doesn't read the ULC blog to get ideas for his sermons.

  1. R.L. Knight's Avatar R.L. Knight

    Question what was the preacher doing out walking around on Sunday afternoon shouldn't he be in he church or tending to his flock people in glass houses sir

    1. Lone's Avatar Lone

      I was thinking that also.

  1. John Eftimiades's Avatar John Eftimiades

    Ahhh Kentucky. The Bluegrass State. Home of the Creation Museum, you know the one that has man living alongside of dinosaurs. You can also find a life-size replica of Noah's Arc with a full explanation of how back then it was made and a complete explanation of how the animals were gathered and survived. No mention of Steve Carell. Of course Kentucky is also home to Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell two pariah who have done nothing for the common citizens of Kentucky and worked tirelessly to line their own pockets and the pockets of their rich donors. So add to the mix Preacher Ernie Spence. Still spitting out his burn in hell nonsense. Well I don't believe in this magical, mystical deity that the Preacher tells up about. But if I did, I would thank God for putting Preacher Spence in Kentucky….WHERE HE BELONGS!!!

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      They also make great bourbon in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and Ruth Hunt bourbon balls are to die for ! Y'all can trust me on that. I lived in Lexington for four years, and had more than plenty of both while there. And the Kentucky Wildcats is a great football team, too.

  1. John Owens's Avatar John Owens

    I have honestly never understood the attraction for large organized sports but at the same time, mainstream religion is mostly a crock of crap, too. I defend the scriptures, and the ideas of religion in general, but most preachers don't know the scriptures and what we now know as religion is nothing like it was when the scriptures were written, and probably would not be recognizable to the characters in our scriptures AS religion. In short, I think most preachers are just people who don't want to do honest work for a living, and people who spend big money on sports are out of their minds.

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      I especially liked going to football games one year when I was a cadet in JROTC at Ball High School, in Galveston. We got merits for working in uniform, as ushers, at the Ball High Tornadoes football games, and I got more merits (72) than anyone else that year (1979-80).

  1. Waya5's Avatar Waya5

    I think the preacher is insulting the intelligence of the players and their parents. Even the average football fan knows the difference between religious services, which tends the soul and football games, which tend the heart. Probably the only thing the preacher was more upset over was that the group in question was not "filling the plate" when it was passed around his church.

    1. Father Thom's Avatar Father Thom

      You have hit the nail on the head intellect. I don’t know nor do I assume. But there are many out there who have not been formally educated in any form of theology. They feel that because they were brought up in the church or have found God and reformed are of sound mind to be preaching. I had a conversation with a minister in Indiana over the phone one day. A small town had had DRESSED HOODED KKK members in the city court house property handing out propaganda. I call every church in that city and the surrounding areas to plead with each religious leader to educate their congregations on hatred and what it leads to. They have a story. They were all very understanding and agreeable but one. He returned my call and was ok at first then argued with me about BLACK LIVES MATTER (Which he brought up) I immediately knew who had been under that hood. Ignorance is sometimes leading the flock.

    2. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      Also probably, the preacher had a grudge about being too fat and dopey to participate in sports as a kid. And the other kids laughed at him and followcalled him names over it, which made him turn red and cry out loud, for which they laughed even harder. And he swore he'd get back at such kids, someday.

  1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp, MSW, ADS, OM

    There must be something in the drinking water or air that makes these preachers become unhinged. "Banshee Indians" ? Wow the guy is so fearful and racist as well,. If it wasn't so shameful, it would be laughable that "preachers" like him exist..

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      We don't go to church to find God or whatever we call our creator. That is in our hearts, minds,and souls, wherever we're at, including football games. Wherever we go there we are, and so is God.

  1. Michael's Avatar Michael

    Other than the audience for this rant being children, i'm not sure how this is "news". The NFL has been the defacto god of American couch potatoes for decades. I don't have any facts, but i would not be surprised if there are more fans in the sports bars on any given Sunday than there are worshipers in the pews.


    Football is a serious idol in America, but that can be said of many things. However, here in my small town it is really easy to see. We as people are free to do many things, but when those things shift our focus from God that is when it becomes criminal in the eyes of God.

  1. sheryl A clyde's Avatar sheryl A clyde

    Anything taken to excess to the point of excluding others including God, family and friends can be considered a idol and there for breaking two of Christs commands for us. Loving God and loving others. So what a person needs to do is consider whether or not this activity is hurting God and others and balance it against their future.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      So, are you saying that human beings can hurt your god? If that is true, then aren't human beings greater than your god.

  1. CRAIG's Avatar CRAIG

    There's a reason Sunday Service is over by kick off every Sunday...

  1. James Jimbo Jones's Avatar James Jimbo Jones

    The man is missing what it means to be a team member. Easy to see that ranting about things one knows from nothing is dividing. If one's congregation works as a team, God is proud. Displaying illiterate misery of one's self shows complete lack of leadership and examples of the moronic. A unique combination of elements/people that become stronger together than apart is the goal.

  1. Father Fred's Avatar Father Fred

    Too many times a person's (pastor's) personal feeling and conviction have a way of crossing into theology. I hate broccoli. So what would someone think if I said anyone eating broccoli will burn in hell? For that matter, what does that say about my character in making such a boorish statement?

    1. Carol W Waldenburg's Avatar Carol W Waldenburg

      I appreciated the comment Father Fred ;)

  1. Secretary3rd's Avatar Secretary3rd

    I have that happen to me that my soul is control by the Devil and that I will be going to Hell. My words back to a preacher is that he is right that I'm a Imp of Satan, that my soul has long ago been in the hands of Satan. That I do the bidding of Satan. Satan agreement for my position in Hell is too collect souls here on earth. Just by shaking a good decent person hand I shall have their soul and it will be e-mail to Satan. Then I stick out my hand to the preacher.

    He being a good holy preacher with a Bible in his left hand shakes my hand with his right. I smile says "Thank You" and I walk away tapping numbers in my cell phone. Am I a fraud or on the level. The preacher needs to worry that I'm a joke and what just happen could never happen in the real world. My religion is the After Life. Makes one wonder if I'm for real or not. Imp I is not.

  1. Iconoclast's Avatar Iconoclast

    This preacher is a dumbass. The traditions he observes are not the commandments of God, anyway. Hell as he preaches is not taught in scripture, and there is no commandment against football, European or American. What a goon!

  1. John Matthews's Avatar John Matthews

    Preachers who condemn football are flirting with disaster. He needs to understand that football is much more popular than church on Sunday. I didn't say God, just church on Sunday. He needs a reality check. Nowhere in my Bible is football or any sport for that matter mentioned. I highly doubt that these kids on the field and cheerleaders on the sidelines are thinking about worshipping the sport. It's when they start praying to the ball does it begin to tap the rage of this hypocrite.

  1. Chaplain Ken's Avatar Chaplain Ken

    Are we not as Men & Women of faith to encourage people? I am a huge football/sports fan. Does that mean that all people who watch or play sports on Sunday will go to Hell. I think not! How does that preacher know if they didn't go to church early that day or how about if they went to church on the Sabbath which is Saturday not Sunday. Just a few observations.

  1. Kivajiva Christie's Avatar Kivajiva Christie

    Pigs aren't kosher, the Bible says so, and pro footballs are made of pigskin, ergo....Hmm, if he took that tack he woulda made more sense.

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