An Update on the Financial Boycott Against the Park District Board Member Who Wouldn’t Stand for the Pledge

Last week, I posted about how the American Legion Post 134 was financially boycotting the Morton Grove (Illinois) Park District because its Commissioner Dan Ashta wouldn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at board meetings. Legion Commander Joseph Lampert is withholding $2,600 from the park district until Ashta stands up.

Commissioner Dan Ashta

As I wrote then, the boycott has nothing to do with patriotism. It’s all about a government official not bowing down to Christian privilege and a Christian veteran not taking that fact in a healthy way. It’s as if he fought for our freedoms, but now wants to punish someone who’s exercising them.

Readers of this site were eager to respond in a positive way — and you’ve pitched in more than $2,000 to make up for the park district’s lost funds.

I’d like to cross that goal ASAP. Let’s show our support for Ashta and his brave stance. I don’t know what Ashta’s religious beliefs are, but his position in this case is one everyone of us should get behind. I emailed him a few days ago to let him know what we were doing and he sent back this message:

I have a constitutional and statutory duty to consist with the First Amendment. I happen to believe this is a good idea. This country is premised, and depends upon, ideological (and other forms of) diversity. You, and everyone else, has every right to insist this from governmental officers.

That’s a very politically-correct, emotionless way of saying “I support church/state separation and religious freedom.”

Rick Kambic, the journalist who broke the story, has written an update that includes why atheists are raising money for the district:

“This guy [Ashta] is not unpatriotic; he’s quite the opposite,” Mehta said. “He is an elected official chosen by citizens in his community, and I doubt that every single person in Morton Grove is able-bodied, Christian and completely satisfied with their government. He’s reminding everyone that government is open to all. That’s about as patriotic as it gets.”

Meanwhile, Lampert doesn’t regret his group’s childish boycott at all:

“My phone number is listed in our newsletter, which we started putting on our website,” Lampert said. “Mostly it’s been other posts and veterans calling to support us.”

Lampert said the Legion stands by its decision.

The Legion’s financial boycott will end once all park commissioners stand for the pledge, Lampert said, and members said they are willing to wait until Ashta is voted out of office if that’s what it takes.

Ashta won’t even be up for re-election until 2019, so good luck with that one. While he hasn’t received any threats yet, the people contacting him have been split between supporting him and castigating him:

Many of the emails Ashta has received have been unpleasant, but he claims the responses have been half positive and half negative.

“I’ve received a significant amount of emails from people all over, but not an amount beyond my capability to respond,” Ashta said. “I’ve spent a lot of time replying to people who didn’t excessively swear at me.”

You can send him your letters of support through here.

And you can help us achieve our goal by donating to the cause. Let’s help the Park District raise the money it needs to continue with the programming the American Legion won’t support.

***Update***: WBBM, a Chicago news radio station, ran a piece on the fundraiser this morning.

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.

  • Reasonable Quest

    It’s alway interesting to me that people on the political right who complain about “government hand outs” are happy to take a government hand out when it helps them add force to their religious arguments.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Me too, but I don’t see that it has anything to do with the current subject matter.

      • Reasonable Quest

        Nothing to do with the current subject? Inserting “under God” into the Pledge was made law by and act of Congress in 1954. Saying the pledge the includes “under God” is on the official agenda of a government meeting of a parks commission. The American Legion is trying to using this a a litmus test to see who is a “True American”. My point was that laws favoring god belief over non belief is on the same level as accepting a government hand out, because they are depending on our shared civic laws and institutions (civic meeting) to help them shame non believers. I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear before.

    • 3lemenope

      The American Legion is not an organ of the government.

      • C Peterson

        But they’re definitely an organ.

        • Stev84

          Anuses.

  • Mandy StarStuff Graffeo

    It is great seeing this kind of support behind Mr. Ashta and behind our constitution. Kudos to everyone that has been able to donate.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    I support the Pledge of No Pledge.

    • C Peterson

      I used to think that we could fix things by taking out the offending words. But somewhere along the way I came to the conclusion that even without “under God”, the Pledge, especially in its most common form as a rote recital by children, is just creepy and wrong.

      If we are going to keep the Pledge as some sort of official mantra, “under God” has to go, of course. But even if that happens, I’m not going to start saying it ever again. There’s just something inherently unpatriotic about the whole thing.

      • 3lemenope

        This is what led me in my youth to say, for the Pledge: “I pledge allegiance to…[long waiting pause]…liberty and justice for all”.

        Nowadays I just stand silently.

  • netjaeger

    Small side note. The A.Legion is not like the VFW, which requires that members actually serve in combat.
    In my short membership I found only one guy who’d actually been in a war theater.

    • netjaeger

      (combat theater). Ooops.

    • cinghoa

      I don’t support this legion, they’re idiots, I just don’t like the sentiment of the comment. We all signed up, not all of us were sent into combat. That was not always by choice, in fact, some didn’t have a choice. Don’t want this to start an argument, just wanted to put this out there.

    • busterggi

      Point of fact – although they won’t admit it – the American Legion started out as a fan club, pre-WW I, for Adventure magazine, it had nothing to do with patriotism or the US military.

      • 3lemenope

        Source?

        • busterggi

          That’ll take some digging – not sure if its in one of my books on pulps or HPL (he wasn’t a member but he did read the same magazines).

          • ShoeUnited

            I found nothing to that effect on wiki.

            • busterggi

              Which isn’t surprising especially as I didn’t say it was on wiki. I’m thinking it might be in Necronomicon Press’ ‘HPL’s Letters to Argosy Magazine’ and/or one of Robert Sampson’s volumes from his Yesterday’s Heroes multi-volume history of pulp magazines.

  • Andi GreyScale

    Hemant, the goal was passed earlier today!!

  • Sheila Galliart

    Kicked in ten bucks; hope it helps!

  • SeekerLancer

    Looks like you cracked the goal and then-some. Good work all who donated. The American Legion can brood all they want.

  • Jay

    The funds have surpassed the goal!

  • Guest

    I sent the following email to the post,

    I recently read a news article about your post withholding donations because a city council member refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I was shocked that an organization consisting entirely of veterans who have fought to preserve our rights would attempt to strip others of their rights. I am a veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq, and I am also an atheist. I find the pledges inclusion of “under god” to be rather divisive, and I won’t recite nor stand for the pledge until it is returned to its original format. I am exercising my first amendment rights to protest a violation of the first amendment. I am deeply grateful to the servicemembers who came before me and fought for my right not to say the pledge, and me exercising my rights is the best and most true way for me to show my gratitude. Not saying the pledge and not bowing to pressure is one of the most patriotic things this city council member can do, anything else would just be hollow lip service. I think your post has become entangled in pettiness and has forgotten the real reason why us veterans have served. Sincerely, Chris R

    • Stev84

      Actually it was civilians who fought in court for your right not to say it.

      Soldiers defend the country against external threats, but the idea that they literally fight for specific rights is absurd. That saying only makes sense metaphorically.


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