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 editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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