American Legion Withholds Donations from Park District Because Board Member Won’t Stand for Pledge of Allegiance

Remember how American Legion Post 311 refused to attend a Veterans Day ceremony at a local public high school in Pennsylvania after the district’s superintendent told them he would not allow their chaplain say a prayer at the event?

Now, another American Legion group is punishing a public institution for not catering to their juvenile demands.

Morton Grove (Illinois) Park District Commissioner Dan Ashta is someone who doesn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at board meetings for good reason:

Commissioner Dan Ashta

“I’m not entirely sure it’s accurate to say this is a personal choice, but more of a duty. I have an obligation as an elected official to uphold the constitution,” Ashta said. “I have a sincere, serious relationship with the law. I study law and constitutional law is of particular interest to me. I think the Constitution is what makes this country great and worth making sacrifices for. Countries with weak constitutions usually don’t last… I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I have no objections to people who do stand for the pledge.”

Sounds like a perfectly respectable position for a city official to take.

But American Legion Post 134 refuses to give any more money to the park district unless Ashta stands up and pledges allegiance to a nation “under God”:

“On behalf of our post, it is with some regret that we fully respect the right of individuals to not stand during the pledge of allegiance,” Lampert said. “All veterans have been willing to lose their lives for that right, and many have. With that being said, while we support that right, we do not accept it.

“Regrettably, we will be withholding funds from the park district until such time that everyone rises for the pledge,” Lampert continued. “We feel that it’s disrespectful to all veterans that have been willing to sacrifice their lives for this country and it is a great dishonor to all servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and died for this country.”

Yeah! Our veterans died so you could have the freedom to express your beliefs! And if you express them, we’re gonna punish you! We love the Constitution, just not the First Amendment!

Post 134 gave the city around $2,600 a year to sponsor events like the annual Fourth of July fireworks. But not anymore. (Lampert’s childish tirade can be heard here.)

To be fair, Post 134 can spend its members’ money however it wants. It’s under no obligation to give the money to the city. But how petty do you have to be to punish the residents of Morton Grove because one of the park district’s board members doesn’t want the Pledge to be on the meeting’s agenda? There’s just no reason to believe Ashta is being disrespectful to veterans through his actions.

It turns out there’s a way we can fix this problem, though, and it’s inspired by how generous you’ve all been in recent days when the situation called for it.

I’d like our community to raise $2,600 for the Morton Grove Park District to make up for the American Legion’s hissy fit.

I’ve set up a page on GoFundMe where you can pitch in (As always, I will provide proof that all money raised goes to the Park District).

Will you help show the American Legion that we support elected officials whose patriotism isn’t defined by whether or not they stand for the Pledge?

(via ABA Journal — Thanks to Brian for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Lampert needs to understand that it is not disrespectful to not stand for the pledge of allegiance and to bully someone into doing it is stupid and makes you look bad. I didn’t stand for the pledge when I was younger because I was usually too tired in the morning to want to get out of my seat. Then when I got older and understood what was going on with the pledge I refused to stand because it seemed like indoctrination and it also seemed to be a kind off jingoistic ultra-patriotic jerk-off session.

    It is a flag and I do not pledge unquestioning loyalty to anything which is what I feel the pledge does. Nationalism has horrible consequences and is annoying to those of us that hate hearing “we’re number 1″.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    “Our veterans died so you could have the freedom to express your beliefs! And if you express them, we’re gonna punish you!”
    E.X.A.C.T.L.Y.

    Another way of saying it, if vets died so that we could have these freedoms, then if we do NOT exercise them then wouldn’t they have died in vain?

  • Art_Vandelay

    With that being said, while we support that right, we do not accept it.

    What the ever-loving fuck does that even mean?

    • Sven2547

      That’s some weapons-grade doublespeak, right there.

    • The Other Weirdo

      It means that they fully respect rights, but only the rights that they themselves agree with. In other words, they respect no rights relevant to anyone. I know you know that, I’m just spelling it out for others.

    • Richard Tingley

      I am pretty sure that it is one of the examples that Merriam-Webster uses for “hypocrisy”.

    • The Captain

      It’s poor wording is what it is. What they (probably) mean is they would not try to force someone to stand for the pledge by law, but they don’t want to associate, support, or give money to those that don’t.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        … or give money to those that don’t.

        And the money wouldn’t even go to him personally, but to a government entity of which he is the commissioner. What a bunch of poopy heads.

        • Gus

          Clearly the American Legion is a right wing organization and, like many on the right, is convinced that government revenue somehow benefits government officials directly beyond their meager salaries. They forget that the people that money would benefit are not this individual, but all the people of their community. So they’ve chosen not to give money to the community, hurting everyone, to extort one public official into doing something he opposes on principle.

          • Jonas

            Or perhaps they find themselves unwilling to trust the money in the care of someone they have such a fundamental disagreement with? Don’t be surprised when people you are trying to get money from tighten their purse strings when they think you’re insulting them or their beliefs.

    • Mark W.

      What it really means is that this particular legion is full of stodgy old bastards that don’t want any of them young’ens to come in with their new fangled ideas. You either tow the party line or gtfo…but remember they hate totalitarianism. As a legion member myself, I see this all too often in many legions where the old guard is ensconced in the hierarchy. Those legions unfortunately tend to wither and fail, because new blood is never allowed to be anything except volunteer slave labor. Luckily legions like the one I belong to suck those members up and keep going strong with fundraising and charity work.

      • Art_Vandelay

        You either tow the party line or gtfo…but remember they hate totalitarianism.

        Which makes it even weirder that they love the Pledge so much. It’s exactly what you’d expect to see under a totalitarian dictatorship.

      • J Francis Ellwanger

        Simple respect by standing is all that is asked. I think he could get up off his lazy ass and do so. Millions have died to afford him his current life and liberty under this flag. No need to say the pledge but absolutely EVERY reason to stand.

        • jordan hamilton

          He’ll stand when they get rid of the word God. If this is about patriotism, then religion is irrelevant. Most veterans of WW2 I know and have spoken with know from having experienced combat that there’s damn good reason to believe in the absence of a deity. They’ve already been to hell.

    • Kodie

      I think it means the same as you respect someone’s right to free speech but they do not have the freedom not to be responded to or disagreed with. You can do something the American Legion disagrees with, it’s your right, but they also have the right to withhold funds in order to get the majority of the board to browbeat you into compliance. Be a good sport, we can’t afford to stand (or sit) on principle.

      So what it really means is the pledge isn’t exactly a meaningless recitation; it is theatrical, and it is magic words that might get you some money. There is no integrity, it is all grease.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      I suspect a more precise phrasing might be “while we support the right not to stand, we do not accept without reaction the decision to (not) do so”. Much like an ACLU member might support the right of the local KKK group to wave the Confederate flag at a rally as an exercise of the Freedom of Speech, but make a point of organizing and participating in some counter-protest across the street.

      That sort of sloppiness is less surprising in off the cuff remarks than in a written statement. Still, it seems to deserve some snark, given how often the old tend to complain about the relative illiteracy of modern youth.

  • b33bl3br0x

    We feel that it’s disrespectful to all veterans that have been willing to sacrifice their lives for this country

    I feel it is disrespectful to all of the veteran’s who have died for this country for you to attempt to coerce someone away from exercising the rights those deaths helped to guarantee.

    • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

      I hate it when one small minority tries to speak for the whole group. I am a 6 year USMC veteran and I neither stand for the pledge of allegiance, nor say it. I’ve done my duty, I’ve sworn an oath that I still hold, what’s the point of mindlessly reciting a pledge, especially one with someone else’s god in it?

  • Greg G.

    Thank you, Veterans, for your honorable service to protect our freedoms. You protected your right to donate money to benefit your community. However, withholding your generosity for the expressed purpose of restricting another person’s freedom dishonors your service and mine.

    • Mairianna

      Bravo!

  • Regina Carol Moore

    They aren’t attempting to make a donation. They are trying to bribe people to behave in a way that suits them. They are controlling and manipulating. Good riddance to their dirty money!

  • Sven2547

    You can be a wine afficianado without owning a cellar.
    You can be a car enthusiast without owning a Koenigsegg.
    You can be a Green Bay Packers fan without owning one of those novelty cheese hats.
    You can be an American patriot without standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

    • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

      ….

  • C Peterson

    Surely, they should be called the Unamerican Legion? As an American, I find it embarrassing that such an ignorant, disrespectful, and unpatriotic organization should be identified as “American”. Nothing about them demonstrates any understanding of the most basic of American principles.

  • Fred

    I’d stand for the pledge say whatever prayer they wanted me to. Then take the podium and explain why the American Legion is a bunch of jerks.

  • Kenneth Polit

    If I recall, and please correct me if I’m wrong, a few decades ago,the American Legion once called HIV/AIDS God’s punishment to homosexuals for leading a decadent lifestyle. I felt the same way about legionnaires disease.

    • Stev84

      They were also vehemently against DADT repeal. They are nothing more than a far-right political action committee blindly supports any Republican cause and politician. Plus, they don’t even hide that they want the country to be a theocracy.

  • baal

    If reciting “under god” in the pledge creates that much unhappiness with this American Legion group, then the recitation hardly seems to quality as “ceremonial deism”.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      I’m wondering how long it will be until various bits of “ceremonial deism” get challenged in court based on some empirical measure of how the populace interpret it in practice. It would probably need some careful polling done first, however.

      • baal

        I wouldn’t try running up a test case with the current supreme court but it certainly looks like we could get good polling data and collect instances like this one that show the deism is anything but ceremonial to the christians. I do keep iterating this comment whenever these issues come up.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          I think a first step would be to design the polling question, trying to maximize over the product of the probability it would legally imply an entangling establishment to the courts and the fraction of the population who would respond affirmatively.

          Which ethically speaking, looks admittedly an awful lot like a loaded poll question.

  • allein

    “…it is with some regret that we fully respect the right of individuals to not stand during the pledge of allegiance,”

    Really? They “regret” that they respect people’s right to their own conscience? Nice.

    “while we support that right, we do not accept it”

    I’m…not sure how that works. I support your right to do X, but if I had my way you shouldn’t have the right to do X? Is that what they’re saying?

    “We feel that it’s disrespectful to all veterans that have been willing to sacrifice their lives for this country and it is a great dishonor to all servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and died for this country.”

    So exercising the rights that the veterans have fought to protect dishonors the veterans? And going against your conscience because the majority thinks you should do something else does honor those people who fought for your right to follow your conscience and go against the majority? Do I have this straight?

    • The Other Weirdo

      I’m…not sure how that works. I support your right to do X, but if I
      had my way you shouldn’t have the right to do X? Is that what they’re
      saying?

      Yes, that is exactly what they are saying, and if that’s not what they mean, then they should learn better American.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    The Pledge isn’t really for soldiers, but for civilians. The AL is demanding that civilians take regular loyalty oaths in order to act as citizens. Their totalitarianism is so noted.

    On a related note, I have no idea how to tell a relative who seems to be a really decent person that, when he shares Facebook messages that are variants of “0.4% of young people know what it’s like to step up and defend their country [insert implication of superiority]“, he’s unwittingly promoting military elitism – one of the building blocks of totalitarianism.

    • baal

      As much as I would have hated military service (I’m too old now) and don’t want my kids to go into it, the draft is a great thing for democracy. It de-elites the military as well as making it clear who the chicken-hawks (cheney) are.

      • Gus

        Related: Have you seen that Rush Limbaugh has a children’s book out now purporting to teach history? It’s called Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims and it has the Rush Revere character as a time travelling narrator telling kids about history. I really want someone to read it and find all the factual errors and do a spoof version with accurate history, including the Rush Revere character cowering in a corner popping prescription meds at the slightest hint of danger and then pretending to have been a brave hero.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Unfortunately, chickenhawks are too good at succeeding despite their behavior. Look at the GOP not caring a whit that not only did Mittens evade Vietnam repeatedly (I don’t blame anyone for wanting to stay away from that, really), but that he engaged in some public counterprotests. He was draft dodging while actively demanding that other people his age go die for him.

        But he wasn’t black a secret Communist, so it was okay.

        And yeahhhh, I would have been ruined by the Draft, even compared to now. Latent social anxiety disorder which started giving me noticeable panic attacks on occasion right about the age I would have been in the military, plus autism/Aspergers, which was not diagnosed at all where and when I grew up unless you just weren’t functional. I’ve had at least one panic attack* a day for the past three years. Imagine what military service could have added to that.

        *Can’t think well enough to write on any medication I’ve tried. All I can seem to do is spot the symptoms quickly and react appropriately. Thankfully most of them are mild.

      • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

        Yeah, the thing is, a lot of people simply aren’t suited for military service and can actually end up being a drag on the military. Unless it’s a national survival situation like World War II or the Civil War, they tend to rebel against being forced into that position. Part of the reason they dropped the draft was because of the disciplinary problems they had with soldiers in Vietnam who had no desire to be there.

        • HollowGolem

          A good deael of the end of the draft was political, though.

          Nixon ran on a platform that included ending the draft in 1968. Because a lot of the people protesting the war were okay with it as long as they weren’t forced into it.

          While I understand the terrible things that the draft could do to individuals, it was better for our society, because it forced us to respond to the negative results of foreign adventures on an individual level. Because your kids, or my kids, could end up over there.

    • Stev84

      Militarism is also very evident when organizations like AL basically say that because they are veterans their opinions count for more and whatever they say or demand has to be respected.

      Respect for service members is one thing, but compared to Vietnam the pendulum has swung entirely in the opposite direction towards blind, unquestioning military worship.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        I know there are others, but I’ve only heard one veteran say in person to me that he didn’t serve so that other veterans could lord it over civilians and act like their opinions were better. I wanted to salute and hug him, and didn’t have justification to do either. :P

        • Kodie

          Yeah, I know we’re supposed to be glad for our veteran’s fighting for our freedom, but if their intention is to fight against our freedom and try to martyr it over people, I have to say… I really wish you hadn’t. Sorry you sacrificed so much so that I would have less freedom and you still expect me to thank you for your service. I’m glad that so many have a more generous attitude about it.

  • Gus

    Isn’t the American Legion due to dry up and blow away any day now?

    • TnkAgn

      This was the case in the 1960s, which is why the AL came up with “The Sons of the American Legion.” As we Vietnam vets were generally not joiners, and probably the same for Iraq and Afghanistan vets, the VFW, the AL and the AmVets are having there problems with keeping up membership. Members are simply dying off. In However, it’s the same for the Moose, Elks, Eagles and other fraternal orgs. America has largely evolved away from them.

      • Mackinz

        Which kinda sucks because the local Elks lodge here in Torrance makes kick-ass tacos for cheap. Plus the historical factor.

      • Ruth Anastacia Adamcik

        My impression with the vets from Iraq and Afghanistan is two-fold: 1) They just want to get on with their lives as civilians. 2) They are more interested in being activists for peace, for support for disabled vets, and for making sure that vets & active military members are getting decent pay and benefits. All IMHO, of course.

  • LJ

    Is there anyone here who lives close enough to attend the next board meeting (Nov 21) and show support by not standing? I’m a few hours away, but Thursdays are already booked for me. My husband is a ‘Nam vet, and if I remember right, neither AL nor VFW welcomed them into their organizations when they came home. They only allowed them in years later when all the WW2 vets were aging and they were in danger of having no members.

  • Jeff

    Excuse me, I’m a veteran. So there is no doubt, I am a living veteran. I support not standing for the pledge, I support burning the flag, I support doing things others would accuse you of being a communist for because I served to protect your Constitutional right to do so. If I remember correctly, it was part of the oath I took. That being said, I support your right to keep your money. My bet is, it will be easily replaced.

  • TnkAgn

    When I began work in politics in Alaska in the mid-1980s, my boss (a state legislator) asked me to join the Legion and the VFW, since I was a Vietnam veteran. I did. I was surprised and disturbed to see just how many of my fellow Vietnam vets simply sat around on their bar stools, lamenting how the country had gone to hell-in-a-hand-basket. Once, I was pressured to sign a petition for a constitutional amendment to make flag burning a federal crime. I refused, and that was the end of my membership.

    To this day, I will observe Memorial Day, and occasionally go to a ceremony, even though there are invocations, convocations, and all manner of religious references imbedded in these ceremonies, and I am a non-believer. On the other hand, I don’t attend Veteran’s Day services. They are, to me, somewhat self-congratulatory, and I think it unseemly.

    Good for Commissioner Ashta on this.

  • Brian

    “Our veterans died so you could have the freedom to express what we want you to express”

    That seems more accurate.

  • edb3803

    So we have certain rights that we are not permitted to exercise, otherwise we will be punished? That’s not freedom.

  • DougI

    If the American Legion hates America so much then they should just leave.

  • Anthony Grimm

    Dear Sir as a retired Military member and life member of VFW Post 2485 where I serve as post Surgeon. Your action shows disrespect to those who have served or are serving. This is not about freedom speech but respect to those who who chose to serve.

    • FreethinkerII

      This IS about freedom period. You do not serve your country so that you could make demands or force your sense of entitlement on others… and to assume that this man does not respect those who have served because of a personal decision regarding a forced pledge of allegiance is an inappropriate assumption for you to make.

  • Mary Vogel

    I don’t say the pledge for 3 reasons: the ‘under god’ thing, I’m an Atheist. ‘Liberty and justice for all’, I’m a lesbian living in the really bigoted state of NC. The pledge was written in the 1880′s to sell flags, the words were altered over the years and it’s just plain silly. I’d rather do something meaningful like feed the hungry.

  • Jonas

    Ok, this is beyond stupid on so many levels. It’s their money, let them do as they wish. Crying about a bunch of veterans who’ve fought for the county being picky over what they feel to be disrespect to the country isn’t really news worthy. At all. Whats next, are you going to write an article about how mean the Catholic Church is because they don’t fund abortion clinics? Perhaps your local animal rights group is evil for not donating what little money it has to someone who ignored a drowning kitten? Since whoever is in charge of the purse strings feels insulted by the perceived disrespect, why SHOULD they give them a portion of their very limited budget?

    And since I’m sitting here decrying this entire situation as stupid, yes, I also think cutting their funding because of this is stupid, and I think Dan is extremely irresponsible for failing to make such a minor concession as standing for the pledge for religious reasons. At the very least, he shows a remarkable lack of suitability for his position by his belief that not standing for the pledge to object to religion (someone please explain that to me, because that’s beyond stupid. Just don’t say “under god”. Worked for me in school) was more important that his duty to his constituents.

    • Ruth Anastacia Adamcik

      If you read the above posts, *including those from veterans*, then you will understand! Patriotism and a belief in a deity must not be overtly or covertly coerced on citizens in a free country. ‘Nuff said.


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