Morton Grove Doesn’t Want Dirty Atheist Money

A few weeks ago the American Legion in Morton Grove, Illinois decided to withhold it’s annual $2600 donation to that city’s park district because one member of the park board does not recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Hemant Mehta, as he often does, stepped up to the plate, had a fundraiser and sent them a check for $3000 to make up for it. But they sent it back, with a transparently absurd excuse:

After a local veterans group pulled its donations to the Morton Grove Park District in response to a park board member’s refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, a Naperville teacher and atheist blogger asked his readers for donations to replace the roughly $2,600 in lost funding.

But Hemant Mehta’s check for $3,000 is on its way back to him after being refused by Park District officials.

In an email to Mehta, Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson said the Park District board “has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.”

The email also says Park District officials do not want to appear “sympathetic to,” or show a perceived position for or against, “any particular political or religious cause.”

Riiiight. Because if the check would have come from a local church, I’m sure that’s exactly what they would have done and said. Hemant plans to donate the money to another local charity, almost certainly not the American Legion.

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  • machintelligence

    Somehow this brings to mind the story of the Frenchman who felt the need to escape from the misdeeds of his past life and join the armed forces of a foreign nation. Unfortunately he applied to the American Legion.

  • coogan607

    Sounds like they were already embroiled in a First Amendment debate, whether they wanted it, or not.

    And they couldn’t have credited the donation as “… coming from a concerned supporter of free speech and expression”? Surely everyone supports freedom of speech and the free expression of that right?


    Perhaps they were just worried they’d upset the American Legion even more by accusing them of suppressing free speech, and that’s the “First Amendment debate” they wanted out of. Sucks to be them, I guess.

  • tsig

    The American Legion where a bunch of drunks get together to tell lies about deeds they never did.

    I was a member years ago because it was the only place to get high (above 3.2%) beer on Sundays.

  • petemoulton

    They must’ve found out that all us nasty atheists make the money we donate by selling leather goods made from the hides of the babies we eat.

  • Trebuchet

    Forty-some years ago, a Master Sergeant in the US Army — one I actually respected — warned me against joining the American Legion when I got out because they were, in his words, “a radical organization.” Apparently time hasn’t changed them much.

  • richardelguru

    I wonder how they’d react if the pledge was done with the proper salute?

  • richardelguru
  • roggg

    I can has dirty atheist money plz?

  • grumpyoldfart

    Playing the martyr.

    You Americans have made it an art form.

  • Chiroptera

    Well, you can see the board’s point, though. If they took the money, then they couldn’t continue to blame the nonconformist for costing them money.

  • Michael Brew

    Yes, accepting donations from the group not making any political demands of the organization in return for the money would be getting embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.

  • Matt G

    tsig @3 – Absolutely right: American Legion = drinking club.

  • Kimpatsu

    A few weeks ago the American Legion in Morton Grove, Illinois decided to withhold it’s annual $2600 donation…

    “…IT IS annual…”, Ed? For shame!

  • zmidponk

    In an email to Mehta, Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson said the Park District board “has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.”

    Seems to be that they now can’t really avoid that – the actions of the American Legion embroiled them in such a dispute whether they like it or not. It would have actually served them better in maintaining neutrality by simply accepting the money with no comment at all, except maybe ‘thank you’.

    On, and Kimpatsu, if you’re going to be a grammar nazi, make sure you’re getting it right. Look up the grammar rules for possessive apostrophes.


  • aluchko

    Their stance is unfortunately rational. The cancelled donation was a protest, by accepting the replacement donation they’re negating that protest. That gives the Legion and their allies an excuse to start making more noise which is what they wanted in the first place. Since the atheist fundraiser probably won’t carry over to next year when they’re back to relying on local support it could end up costing them more than $3000.

    If they can handle the cash drop the best way to blunt the protest is probably to simply ignore American Legion, though donating somewhere else in the community is a good move by Mehta.

  • Friendly

    @zmidponk: Your paragraph 1 I agree with. But your paragraph 2…sorry, Kimpatsu is correct. “Its” is possessive, “it’s” is a contraction for “it is”. Professional grammar nazi (technical editor) here…

  • had3

    Wait, if taking the money is a position favoring a religious or political group, then why isn’t refusing the money a position against a religious or political group? If that refusal isn’t taking a position, then what would be an example vis a vi donations, of a stand against a group? Internal logic appears to be missing here. Quelle shock!

  • Michael Heath

    aluchko @ 15:

    Their stance is unfortunately rational.

    It’s not. For one example why, see had3’s point @ 17.

  • dono

    Yes–thanks for fighting the good fight on this one. It’s bad enough that people are cramming apostrophes into plural words–we don’t need them crammed into the handful of possessives that don’t require them.