We Raised More Than $3,000 for the Morton Grove Park District and They Rejected It

Back in October, 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. Ashta’s sitting down for the Pledge cost the district $2,600 that the American Legion group had been giving them each year.

Commissioner Dan Ashta

This was never about anyone being unpatriotic; this was always about the right to exercise our freedoms, whether that means sitting or standing for the Pledge.

I asked all of you to donate money to the Park District so we could make up for the lost money, at least for this year, and you all responded brilliantly, raising more than $3,000 in just a couple of weeks.

That money was raised by a lot of atheists (and Christian allies) who applauded Ashta for his brave stance.

On November 12, I sent the park district a check for all the money that I had received at that time (minus any fees taken by the fundraising website). I included a brief message explaining where the money was coming from. After not hearing back from the park district and not seeing the check clear from my bank account, I emailed them Sunday night inquiring about the donation.

This is what the district’s Executive Director Tracey Anderson told me Monday afternoon:

Hello Hemant,
The check was received, thank you.

I just sent you a letter indicating that we received the check. Unfortunately, your donation as presented must be returned. The Park Board has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First Amendment dispute or allegations it is sympathetic to or supports/doesn’t support any particular political or religious cause.

Again, thank you for thinking of the district.

Had they told me that a month ago, maybe I would’ve been more sympathetic. But I explicitly told the district about the fundraiser when I asked where I should send the donations and they expressed no concerns back then.

I’m frustrated. I’m also sorry to everyone who donated because your money isn’t going to the park district.

Jonathan Bullington of the Chicago Tribune wrote about all of this last night:

[Anderson] said she believed Mehta’s donation was simply to make up for the loss of the veterans group’s funding. But she said that after discussing the donation with park board members, the Park District determined that Mehta’s donation was not for general programming purposes and thus should be returned.

Anderson said she discussed the donation with park board commissioners who came to her office separately and that a consensus was reached. She said Ashta was the only commissioner she did not talk to about the donation.

Ashta could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Mehta said he probably would search for a Morton Grove charity to receive the money.

“I know everyone who gave money wanted to help the Park District make up for that injustice that happened,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Park District would rather lose money than take the charity of atheists and their supporters.”

After giving this some thought, here’s what I’m doing with the money ($3,088.03): I’m sending it to the Morton Grove Public Library. The money was meant to support the people in the community, after all, and if the park district doesn’t want it, then I can think of no other place more deserving of the donation.

Once I get official word that the library has received the money, I’ll give you all an update.

In the meantime, the park district is still out $2,600/year thanks to a group of Christian activists who misinterpret patriotism and can’t see past their own privilege.

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.

  • Taz

    It’s a donation. By accepting it they’re saying nothing other than “we accept donations”. By rejecting it they’re taking sides and “embroiling” themselves in the issue.

    • R Bonwell parker

      That was my thought. Turning down money is more of an active statement than accepting it.

    • Mackinz

      I see it as a “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” moment. Sure, it was a donation with no factual strings attached, but that would not prevent Christians in the area from imagining strings put there by the evil, anti-Murican atheists who want to spread Islam.

    • Aaron Arm

      In a perfect world, that would be true. But donations carry quite a bit more connotation than that, given how “donations” tend to be intimately linked with politics (local and national). I realize this particular instance is pretty much harmless, but I wouldn’t say that accepting donations from a certain demographic is so easily done without public questioning.

  • diogeneslamp0

    It’s discrimination. Sue them. They took money from the Legion, who turned out to be assholes, but they won’t take money from atheists? Sue them.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      This is certainly the worst possible idea. Nothing good will come of it.

    • ohnugget001

      Bad idea. Very bad idea. Too many people ignorant on why secularists sue when there are legitimate reasons (e.g., ACLU, MRFF, FFRF, etc) Let us not give them a reason to validate their belief that we indiscriminately sue when WE “don’t get our way.”

    • 3lemenope

      People are definitely allowed to be discriminatory in who they will accept gifts from. I mean, think about it; can you refuse if a Gideon walks up to you and offers you a swank pocket Bible, or are you obligated to accept out of fear that the Gideon would have a cause of action against you?

    • Art_Vandelay

      Yeah, I don’t think not accepting a gift qualifies as oppression.

    • Psychotic Atheist

      What loss have we suffered? What standing do we have to recover it?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Only out of pure legal curiosity, I wonder if a resident of the area would have standing under the notion that the district is denying park services or improvements to the citizen that they would otherwise have if the donation were accepted. Probably more of a case if a new tax or fee had to be levied to make up for the lost funds of the Legion.

        I seriously doubt it, and I wouldn’t bother to test it, but just musing.

    • UWIR

      What sort of relief would be sought?

      “Your honor, we are seeking damages of negative $3,088.03.”

      Oh, and the phrase “turned out to be assholes” implies that their assholery hadn’t long since been established. The AL is a far right organization. While some of its members are genuinely interested in community service, far too many are entitled assholes with the attitude that serving in the military means that their views should have special weight.

  • randomfactor

    Who CAN’T see past…

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      I accidentally drop “n’t”‘s all of the time, too.

  • the moother

    This is a classic case of cutting off one’s nose to, well, just cut of one’s nose…

  • Cake

    Shorter Morton Grove Park District: “We have no wish to be a political football.”

    I can understand that. Good luck.

    • Gus Snarp

      The American Legion already made them a political football. Accepting a donation doesn’t make them more of one. In fact, I’m inclined to believe there’s some political football involved in their rejection of the donation.

      • 00001000_bit

        I would guess that they view the Legion money as a yearly (repeat) donation and fear that by accepting this (likely one-time) gift, they’ll spite the Legion enough to lose out on the recurring money.

        • Gus

          In other words, the American Legion is making a political football of them, whether they like it or not.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        “The American Legion already made them a political football.”
        True, but they don’t have much of a say in that. It’s not like they can force them to give donations. They can, unfortunately, refuse donations.

        • Beyond Belief

          They could have stood and backed Ashta’s religiously neutral position and called the Veterans group out, for playing political football games.

      • Cake

        No they were invited to play political football by the American Legion. Grove Park rejected the invitation. Now they’re being offered money by another team on the roster because of American Legions antics. Grove Park is rejecting that invitation also.

        • Gus

          The American Legion asked them to do something in order to get money. Hemant and his donors just want to give them some money. Accepting a donation with no strings attached doesn’t make you a political football. It is the political football started by the legion that is preventing them from taking the donation. They’re in this, and the Legion put them their. They can’t choose not to play, they’re playing at least as much when they reject a donation as when they accept it. Probably more.

          • 3lemenope

            Accepting a donation with no strings attached doesn’t make you a political football.

            Bullpucky. I can think of a whole host of unsavory sources for a donation that would instantly make said donation, and anyone stupid enough to accept it, an instant political football just-add-water, no strings necessary (*batteries not included).

            You can too. Just think Godwin to get you started and roll with it.

            • Gus

              Sure, you can always find an extreme example that is the exception. But if we’re so hated that this simple donation falls into that category, then there’s something wrong with the community, not with us.

              • 3lemenope

                Sure, you can always find an extreme example that is the exception.

                Now think about a prevalent opinion that is endemic to many parts of this country that is generally held regarding atheists and atheism.

                …Just think Godwin to get you started and roll with it. :)

                But if we’re so hated that this simple donation falls into that category, then there’s something wrong with the community, not with us.

                I really don’t think that’s fair at all. Towns don’t have infinite resources, and what they do have they are (at least) duty-bound to be good stewards of. If a town reasonably believes that by accepting [x] number of dollars from some disfavored group, that it would cost them [y] dollars in lost donations and other avoidable expenses (lost business/boycotts, legal advice, media for damage control, etc.), and [y] is greater than [x], it is prudent if not practically morally compelled for them to refuse the donation.

                Nobody is required to take a stand in this particular sense for anyone else with money that is not theirs. It could, under extreme circumstances, be theoretically a supererogatory good, but it can never be wrong to say instead: “No, these resources were primarily given to us by the citizens of this town via taxes to do with it what the town needs/wants, and everyone else can pound sand.”

                • Gus

                  Sure, they can make what they consider to be the expedient decision. But there’s still a problem with the community. There’s still political pressure being applied. They’re still a political football, regardless of whether they accept or reject the donation. There’s nothing you’ve said here that contradicts anything I’ve said.

                • 3lemenope

                  There’s nothing you’ve said here that contradicts anything I’ve said.

                  Well, I would start in pointing out that the characterization of the decision is improperly called “expedience” because it is in direct response to a positive duty (custodianship of the commonly-held resources of the town). That’s not mere expedience, that’s at least “prudence”, and in most cases gets you all the way up the moral foothills to “judiciousness”.

                  I had the same hang-up with the practical consequences that followed from that dickhead preacher a while back desecrating Qur’ans and then inviting the Int’l news media to broadcast it to the wide world. Yes, free speech and all that–he should not by any means have been punished in a legal sense–but he was acting in a way that put other people’s lives in danger. He was breaching a moral duty by being cavalier with lives-not-his, knowing the likely and predictable reaction (especially the times after the first he did it). Same principle here, only not quite as fraught since instead of other people’s lives it’s merely other people’s money.

                  And just on a practical note I’m pretty sure any political football game that would result from accepting this money would make the one that is caused by declining it look like a pickup game of flag football. Just think FOX News to get you started…

                • UWIR

                  Gus said there is something wrong with the community, not there is something wrong with the politicians. If not treating atheists like Nazis will cause politicians problems, we can debate whether the politicians are justified in avoiding dealings with atheists, but it’s not debatable that the community has something wrong with it.

            • Beyond Belief

              Let’s not forget… it was not the parks commission who rejected the initial donation. It was the Veterans’ group that pulled funding because they couldn’t get the enforced loyalty behavior they desired from a council member.

              Hmmm what organization required its members to salute… hmm… Godwin.

              • 3lemenope

                That certainly makes the American Legion gigantic dicks–I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise–but nonetheless the story stops there for the wider world unless the town engages in an affirmative action to keep it going. Taking money from dirty atheists would definitely breathe new life into the story. Why on Earth would they want that?

        • Beyond Belief

          Au Contraire. Morton Grove Parks joined the game full force in NOT supporting Ashta’s position, and not calling “a spade a spade” vis a vis the actions of the Veterans group’s attempted blackmail.

    • Beyond Belief

      Too late. Should have supported Ashta initially, then, with that neutral goal.

      How can the council define when the football was inflated? I think they started it by not backing Ashta.

  • LesterBallard

    Petty motherfuckers. The library is a great idea. I wish you could stipulate what the money would go towards.

    • Deus Otiosus

      Because you know there’s some asshat working at the library who’ll think they’re “winning one for the team” if they use the money to buy bibles.

      • Richard Thomas

        Unfortunately, a quick search on my county library’s online catalog returns 19075 hits for “bible”. Funny thing is, there is at least one church on every single block surrounding the main branch.

        • Gus

          Oh, are you in Cincinnati, too? I get the exact same number of results. On the other hand, last time I was in the library one of the featured books on display was Christian Nation (http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Nation-Frederic-C-Rich-ebook/dp/B00A3IZHHK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386090055&sr=8-1&keywords=christian+nation ) and the trip before that there was some atheist book on display as well. Libraries serve the whole population, and to a certain extent holdings are based on popularity, so yes, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has lots of different Bibles and all sorts of other religious books. They also have books by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et. al. And librarians really tend to hate censorship.

          • Richard Thomas

            That’s a good point.
            And correct on Cincinnati.

            • Gus

              Well, I was curious how many hits I’d get on the library catalog, and it seemed unlikely that two library system would have the exact same number….

              I really want to find out who the librarian is who keeps featuring atheist themed books on the west side…

              • Richard Thomas

                Let me know when you do, I’m on the west side. I’ll buy them a drink.

        • allein

          I wonder how many of them are things like “The Dog Training Bible” or “The Excel Bible” and other non-religious books.

          • Richard Thomas

            “The Excel Bible” is CLEARLY showing a preference over those of the OpenOffice faith.
            But yeah, you’re probably right.

            • allein

              Well, I have the Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Excel 2007 on my desk here (also the Access version).

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                Access is proof that while God probably doesn’t exist, the Devil sure does.

                • allein

                  The three databases running on my computer right now and I would agree.

        • John Thomas

          Change your search terms to “Holy Bible” and (if you have the choice) specify Non-Fiction. That will insure a more realistic count.

          • Richard Thomas

            Two problems with that:
            First, that would be discriminatory to the American Standard Bible, the Common English Bible, the English Standard Bible, the King James Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the NEW King James Bible, the Orthodox Jewish Bible, and the Young’s Literal Translation Bible, just to name a few that don’t contain the title “Holy Bible”.
            Second, if they were in Non-Fiction then that would be a whole other can of worms.

          • Jacqui H

            “Non-fiction”. LOL

      • Suzie

        As a librarian, I can say, more than likely there is not a single public library in this country that would need to buy bibles. Every public library that takes book donations gets at least 15 – 30 bibles donated a year. If they end up buying bibles, they should get reprimanded for misuse of funds. This doesn’t mean they (the hypothetical asshat library worker) wouldn’t use the money to buy other Christian books put out by the frankly outrageous number of Christan publishers in the business today.

      • Deus Otiosus

        I think I should have been more clear. My intent wasn’t to say anything about libraries, or librarians, in general. It’s just that we don’t know who is in charge of buying books at that particular library. All it takes is one fundamentalist christian to think it would be funny to spend $3,000 of atheists’ money on a stack of books by Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Lee Strobel or whatever.

        • Suzie

          Yes, I agree with you, actually. I also hope they don’t use the money for that, but if the money was going to go into the general fund for the parks, there shouldn’t be stipluations on it now, when it’s going to the library. Maybe everyone who donated would not have a problem if Hemant used some of the money to buy the library most of the books on his top atheist book list he posted a few days ago. That way they get some good reading and money to use as they’d like. I sneaked one or two of those books on a to-buy list for my library too. :)

    • UWIR

      Actually, you might be able to. A lot of libraries accept book donations, so instead of giving the library $3k in cash, Mehta could give them $3k in books.

      • LesterBallard

        That’s a lot of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Coyne, Shubin, Prothero, et al.

  • CultOfReason

    I’m going to take a “cup half full” view on this one. That amount of money probably won’t go far if applied to the park. It can, however, provide many new books, e-readers, etc… at the library.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I don’t understand what they think the 1st amendment dispute is? Was anything ever even up for debate? Were anyone’s rights ever infringed upon? It’s just one citizen refusing to adhere someone else’s imperialistic bullshit. There’s no 1st amendment dispute at all.

  • Rob P

    “the Park District determined that Mehta’s donation was not for general programming purposes and thus should be returned.”
    Exactly how did they determine that? I assume that when you sent in the donation that you did not tell them how they had to use the money.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Correct. The money was never earmarked.

      • RegularJoe

        Email addresses we can contact?

        • ohnugget001

          I don’t believe that a deluge of emails is going to change their minds on this one.

      • Artor

        Ah, so that was a bald-faced lie. How unsurprising.

      • Sam Kay

        Hi Hemant,

        When did Christianity come into this issue? I was looking at Post 134′s website and no religious ideology is mentioned (at least not that I found). I thought the issue was about a veteran’s group refusing to honor someone’s freedom…

        • Peter Naus

          I’m going to copypasta UWIR’s reply to this question, I hope that’s ok? (I don’t know how to just link to a specific comment, sorry!)

          UWIR Bdole • 6 hours ago −
          Even if their original motivation were patriotic, to ignore religious concerns is to exercise Christian privilege. That’s what the concept of privilege is about: not just setting out with the motivation of oppressing others, but also ignoring the side effects of your action. And the AL is religious:


          The preamble of the constitution adopted in St. Louis[31] became one of the seminal statements of the Legion’s orientation and objectives:
          “For God and Country we associate ourselves together for the following purposes:
          At the Legion’s 1951 convention at Miami, Florida, it formally endorsed its “Back to God” movement.[60] When launching the program in 1953 with a national television broadcast that included speeches by President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon, the Legion’s National Commander Lewis K. Gough said it promoted “regular church attendance, daily family prayer, and the religious training of children.”[61]
          Their motto is “For God and Country”.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    I think people here are misinterpreting this statement. Because our currency has “In God We Trust,” and since Morton Grove (Illinois) Park District “doesn’t support any particular [...] religious cause” nor do they want to become “embroiled in a First Amendment dispute”, they are simply refusing any US currency or substitute there of. It’s all a matter of principle.

    • Steven

      I see your point, but checks don’t say “Under God” on them (or, I’m assuming at least Hemant’s don’t!).

    • Beyond Belief

      I know you’re joking, but the sad thing is that we’ve been forced to carry/use the money with “In God We Trust” as well.

      Notice however, when folks are angling to put God IN to the public discourse, it’s always to be religious. (See the Knights Of Columbus push re: the Pledge, and all of the McCarthy era push to change the national motto and get the phrase on the money, and the 1954 passage of the Parsonage exemption: All explicitly pushed to indicate that we’re defiant of the godless communists.”

      But when someone fights to pull “God” from the public square, the defenders shout “Ceremonial Deism” or “Historical Importance.”

      It’s all lying for Jesus. And, if they hadn’t thought of it before, your comment just hands them one more lie to use.

      • UWIR

        They only shout “Ceremonial Deism” and “Historical Importance” in the courtroom, after shouting “America is a Christian nation” and “Religion is fundamental to our society” in public.

  • Gus

    I can’t even comprehend this. They’re seriously afraid that accepting a donation somehow embroils them in a battle over freedom of religion? That’s just absurd. This seems so petty. I can only imagine that some political pressure has been brought to bear on the Park District. It’s incredibly sad. I am not one of the donors on this one, but I can think of no better alternative than the public library, an institution that is usually a bastion of free speech.

  • Dan Weeks

    That’s right, be relentless. If the Library turns it down, go to the local school district. If they turn it down, there’s the county food bank. If they turn it down, give it to the Police and Firefighter’s Toy Drive (Tis the season).

    Perhaps eventually, someone will take the charitable donation. Perhaps not, though, since doing so violates their stereotype of atheists; that we’re uncaring nihilistic automatons.

    People hate it when their prejudices are threatened. They hate it more than they like money…

    • B Dallmann

      Eventually they’ll probably forget why the money was raised in the first place, and someone is bound to accept it XD

    • LutherW

      Maybe give away free books on reason and science to anyone with a open mind in the town, especially students. Maybe an essay contest awarding three prizes to students from the town, going to non-religious colleges.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Must be nice to have the luxury of turning down money.

    Our little rural school is working very hard to raise the money to purchase a plot of land behind the school, with a high enough hill that we can place a microwave link allowing us to get decent Internet connectivity for the first time ever. A school without a modern Internet connection… imagine that!

    Unfortunately, our board doesn’t say the Pledge before meetings. We don’t have prayers, or even a moment of silence. Nothing to start a “First Amendment dispute”. Because we sure wouldn’t let that get in the way of something that could improve our school!

    • Jacqui H

      I bet if you created a way to donate for this people would jump at the chance

    • Donnie

      You have done a lit of commenting and regular here. Start a fund raiser and post it (hopefully Hemant reposts). I would donate my little funds to your cause. It is a good cause.

      • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Thanks for the suggestions. I’m disinclined to solicit any funds here, since our need really is unrelated to any secular or atheist issues. We are exploring different fund raising options. Fortunately, we have a very close community, and the school is at the center of it, so between grants and community member donations, we’re well on our way.

        • Blacksheep

          I’ll bet you would get it funded on Kickstarter – I would donate.

        • Peter Naus

          Hell, I’m on the other side of the planet, and I’d be happy to kick in a few bucks if it would help.

          And having a microwave link would be helpful for warming up the kids’ lunches! (j/k)

        • John Thomas

          Quality schools are a major secular or atheist issue.

    • Terry Firma

      Are you familiar with donorschoose.org? It’s set up to help schools and teachers. Start a fundraising campaign there in minutes, and spread the word via e-mail and social media. Let me know when it’s up and running and I’ll contribute.

  • Richard Thomas

    Seems to me they embroiled themselves in a First Amendment dispute when they started taking donations with christian strings attached. You all were just giving them an out and they refused. I think it’s safe to say where their loyalties lie.

    • Guest

      Not only were they taking donations from a Christian group, but they then rejected donations from an atheist group. NOW they have embroiled themselves in a 1st Amendment dispute by accepting money from a Christian group and rejecting money from an Atheist one..

  • Anne

    I think the library will be more than happy to receive the donation. A quick look at their website shows they have a “wishlist” of items they’d like to add to improve the library – much of it furniture for the children’s area. It looks like this donation would allow the library to purchase several items on the list.

    Great decision Hemant!

  • A3Kr0n

    Right now I’d rather not see any money going to Morton Grove IL. I’d rather see it go to the ACLU.

  • velveteenRabbit

    so wait… they’re willing to take donations from the American Legion for general programming purposes but not from a different group? what asshats.

  • ohnugget001

    Is it possible to earmark the money for a list of books that address skepticism/atheism/freethought/etc? Or is it simply possible to order copies of Dawkins, Dennet, etc and have them delivered to the library (unaware of the tax law and all or if they get a discount as a library where you wouldn’t)? I don’t see anything immediately unethical in that scenario and it might impact someone’s life positively down the line.

    • http://loathsomehuman.wordpress.com/ Keane

      Bad idea. That would make this about atheists and atheism and not just people trying to help out a community. I donated. Let the library get whatever they need with my money—even if it’s a bible.

      • ohnugget001

        I’m entertaining the thought that my idea was bad as you suggest… I’ll let you know if I change my stance.

        • kenofken

          You have the seed of a good idea. Rather than trying to use such money to promote atheism in the fashion you mention, you might consider creating or funding scholarships for high school students who stand up for separation of church and state etc.

      • UWIR

        They don’t have to be explicitly atheist books; there are plenty of books that promote critical thinking without being anti-theist.

    • allein

      I don’t know the tax law in Illinois, but there’s a good chance they could make the money stretch further buy making their own purchases. Assuming for the moment that they put it all towards books – Barnes & Noble, for example, has an institutional discount they could apply for (assuming they don’t already have an account), and they may have a state tax exemption for such purchases, as well (I used to work in stores in NJ and the local schools and libraries all had institutional accounts and tax ID numbers). Other types of stores may have similar discounts. For that reason I would be more in favor of giving them the money to use for what they need most.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      No, the money was given by Christians, too, and I don’t want to restrict what the library can do with it.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Libraries are very good at selecting a balance. It’s what they do.

    • cary_w

      I think the whole point is donating money with no strings attached. Unlike the American legion, who withdrew their donation because one guy wouldn’t stand for the pledge. But if the library were to suddenly get some free books donated to them, I bet they wouldn’t pass them up!

  • Terry Firma

    They look like jackasses in the face of atheist donors’ collective graciousness. Previously it was just the hardliners in the American Legion chapter who looked small-minded and petty. Now those characteristics extend to the entire Park District, even incurring a black eye for Morton Grove as a whole. Well done, commissioners.

    Looks like the Park District will accept money from anyone but atheists and drug dealers — and I’m not sure about the drug dealers.

  • Gunner Miller

    You make an act simple and idiot proof, and the world makes a better idiot.

  • Gus

    I definitely think this is a case where we should take the higher ground. They’ve refused the donation. They look like asses because of it. There’s certainly nothing wrong with mentioning it and setting the record straight (like that no strings were attached to the money). But beyond that there’s no real action that we can or should take with regards to the park district. The money should go to the library, also with no strings attached to demonstrate that the point is to help the people of the community without any ideological restrictions and the park district can lose money and look stupid all on their own.

  • Jasper

    Well no wonder atheists would have a hard time getting on any charity statistics. The money is tainted, apparently.

    • 3lemenope

      I did know a guy who compulsively blotted out “In God We Trust” with black magic marker on every bill that passed through his hands. When I asked him what he was doing, he said “There’s graffiti all over my money. I’m fixing it.”

      • Richard Thomas

        I do that too. Not COMPULSIVELY, but I like to as much as I can.

      • meekinheritance

        I add a cross. Right over the GOD. True, my crosses look more like an X, but isn’t that how crucifixes really were anyway?

      • culuriel

        Isn’t that illegal?

        • baal

          No. Generally you need to render the bill “unfit” (for transactions) for it to be illegal. Small writings or crossings out don’t count. Now if you start drawing on zero’s or obliterating the serial number, that’s a different story.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Only if it’s “unfit to be reissued”

          Defacement of currency is a violation of Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code. Under this provision, currency defacement is generally defined as follows: Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.


        • 3lemenope

          Nope. It is only illegal to deface currency with the intent of concealing or changing its apparent value.

  • Rain

    This is all pretty sad because they have great booze at the American Legion halls. And the fish fries are pretty good too.

    • Richard Thomas

      I could walk to the grocery store and probably find a dozen places full of guys drinking Miller Lite and Jack Daniels in the middle of the afternoon.

      • Rain

        Okay so they have cheap booze. The fish is excellent though.

  • Croquet_Player

    How incredibly insulting. Fine, give it to the library. And please include gift copies of “The God Delusion” and “God is Not Great: Religion Poisons Everything”.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    “The Park Board has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First
    Amendment dispute or allegations it is sympathetic to or
    supports/doesn’t support any particular political or religious cause.”

    The implication of this statement is that they will refuse all future donation attempts from the American Legion. Tell them you’ll be watching to see that they maintain their consistency on this.

    • wright1

      Bingo. I bet he isn’t the only one keeping an eye out either. Welcome to the Streisand Effect, councilors.

    • lorimakesquilts

      Alrighty then. I hope they don’t depend too much on donations.

  • Beyond Belief

    Hemant, THANK YOU for exposing the hypocrisy. Vets attempt to blackmail forced speech with “strings attached” money.
    Council rejects “NO-strings attached” money, and says they don’t want to get embroiled in a First Amendment issue.

    Too late.

  • kenofken

    If Morton Grove is too good to take atheist money, come a couple miles west and north to Maine Township. We’re unincorporated and have, shall we say, much more modest programming and infrastructure in the Golf Maine Park District. I don’t know the board members or climate, but I suspect the sum you raised would be appreciated and would make a real difference in some program or another. Alternatively, the township has a food bank and other basic assistance programs, and that sort of help is badly needed these days. All this requires for any governing agency with a brain is for somebody to say “we take no position on the underlying controversy. We’re just happy to accept the donation in the spirit of giving.”

  • Bdole

    In the meantime, the park district is still out $2,600/year thanks to a group of Christian activists who can’t see past their own privilege.

    Why are you assuming they are all “Christian” or doing this with religious motivation? Both stories point to a fixation on patriotic formalities. If the pledge reverted back to its original form without god, they’d probably still protest someone not standing. I take issue with reciting a pledge in the first place, with our without mention of a god.

    • kenofken

      Some of it probably does owe to extreme nationalism rather than religion per se. It’s sort of sad that American veterans can’t see the irony in forced patriotism and worship of a state symbol. Why did we bother fighting fascism or communism? We’re on the same page with their notions of citizenship, apparently.

    • UWIR

      Even if their original motivation were patriotic, to ignore religious concerns is to exercise Christian privilege. That’s what the concept of privilege is about: not just setting out with the motivation of oppressing others, but also ignoring the side effects of your action. And the AL is religious:


      The preamble of the constitution adopted in St. Louis[31] became one of the seminal statements of the Legion’s orientation and objectives:

      “For God and Country we associate ourselves together for the following purposes:

      At the Legion’s 1951 convention at Miami, Florida, it formally endorsed its “Back to God” movement.[60] When launching the program in 1953 with a national television broadcast that included speeches by President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon, the Legion’s National Commander Lewis K. Gough said it promoted “regular church attendance, daily family prayer, and the religious training of children.”[61]

      Their motto is “For God and Country”.

      AL stops giving out scholarships because they were not allowed to engage in school prayer: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/11/11/american-legion-post-holds-stu/

      • Bdole

        That’s pretty good evidence. I don’t know much about them other than what I read on their About page. I didn’t see “god” all over the page and thought maybe they weren’t too into religion.

  • Monica Rose Kiesel

    I say the library is a great choice, since clearly these people need to do some reading, and of books that contain ideas that differ from the ones they already hold!

  • Carla

    I’m sorry, I think I’m missing something. The American Legion is a federally chartered not-for-profit veterans group. They don’t support the councilman’s “unpatriotic” action. That’s not about religion, not even a little. And atheists like to get up in arms about Christian groups getting involved with government, but because we represent as “non-religious” our anti-religious motivations should be ignore. Frankly, I think they were in the right on this one.

    • Sam Kay

      Looking at their website: http://www.mortongrovepost134.org/sal.php, I have to agree. I don’t see anything about religion there. I think the issue has gotten clouded.

      The original issue as I recall it was that Post 134 was unhappy that Ashta didn’t stand for the Pledge, and we were upset that a group of veterans would attempt to deny someone the freedom to not stand for the Pledge. Not sure where Christianity came into it.

      Thank you, Carla, for pointing this out.

      • NathanExplosion

        I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure that the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t secular.

    • NathanExplosion

      The Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t mention God?

      Oh wait, it totally does.

      Better luck with your concern trolling efforts next time. :)

      • Carla

        Since when is disagreement automatically trolling? I’m asking a question… Did the councilman refuse to stand because god is in the pledge? Did the Legions response mention god? Does the word god being sort of involved automatically make this a religious issue? I keep forgetting why I hate commenting here. Goodness forbid someone disagree. This place is worse than Reddit sometimes.

        • NathanExplosion

          Thankfully this article includes links that cover many of the questions you are concerned(trolling) about. Feel free to read them, or don’t. Reddit will always be there for you. :)

          • Carla

            Wow. You’re kind of an ass (troll).

            • NathanExplosion

              Yes I am an ass, but at least this ass takes a moment to read the details of a story before posting a concerned(trolling) comment that you wouldn’t have asked had you read the supporting links or if you weren’t a concern troll.

              Carla the Concern Troll… you have earned thy label. :)

              • Carla

                So concern troll is a real term? I actually didn’t know that. So I looked it up. This is my favorite definition:

                “A term of abuse. Mostly used in forums where there is a fairly well-defined orthodoxy, usually political (it could be conservatism, feminism or nearly anything else) that all members are assumed to agree with by default, “concern troll” can refer to nearly anyone who expresses disagreement or skepticism about some aspect of that orthodoxy, while agreeing with other parts of it.

                Supposedly, the idea is that the “concern troll” is actually an adherent of some other, opposing orthodoxy, disingenuously pretending to be sympathetic to the goals of the forum in order to disrupt it or sow dissent. Perhaps this actually happens (this longtime forum user is skeptical, having NEVER seen a clear example), but usually, the accusation comes from someone who can’t imagine honest disagreement with his or her favored ideology, and thus says more about the accuser than the accused. Basically it’s a bludgeon used by people with very black-and-white views on some topic, against anyone more nuanced than themselves.

                Accusing someone of being a concern troll is generally a bad idea. Even if you’re right about the “troll”‘s motives, which you probably aren’t, that doesn’t make the “troll”‘s arguments wrong; in other words, calling someone a concern troll is a basic ad hominem fallacy. The term is used to shut down, rather than to advance, discussion.”

                • NathanExplosion

                  You lost me at “So”. Feel free to read the details of the story next time, or don’t. Sorry it didn’t work out. :(

    • Peter Naus

      He’s not being “unpatriotic”, that’s religiospeak for “I don’t understand the constitution” (on their part, not necessarily yours!)

      The constitutional issue is that the PoE includes religious terminology. It’s not required at these types of gatherings, it’s just become familiar through repetition. So if it’s not legally required, why say it at all? And secondly, since it includes the term “under god”, constitutionally Mr Asha would be supporting a religious saying, which he is not permitted to do.

      You might want to check this out, since I’m not American, I just hear a lot of stuff…

      • Carla

        Objectively, you’re 100% correct. I’m asking if it’s subjectively accurate to view this situation like that. For example, if I offer my councilman cash to cover my portion of a lunch bill he paid during a meeting where we were discussing council matters and he declines to take it, under your objective logic, he’s making a religious protest because the currency says god on it despite the fact that it’s not subjectively accurate to describe the situation that way. Yes, our currency is technically unconstitutional, but accepting or declining it can and generally does have nothing to do with religion. The same is true of refusing to say the pledge. I’m simply questioning whether anyone has examined the motives in this situation rather than forcing motivations on it based on our perspective. I am not, as you so kindly imply, displaying a lack of understanding of the US Constitution.

  • Don Gwinn

    Forget it, Jake, it’s Morton Grove. Second Amendment, First Amendment . . . they just kinda seem to struggle with the concept over there.

  • Blacksheep

    Never judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes…

    These (American Legion) guys are soldiers who, while ideally were fighting for individual liberty (including the right to not stand for the pledge) were still symbolically fighting for our flag – so it reads as smug and self indulgent to not give it respect. I appreciate both sides.

    • NathanExplosion

      Efforts on a battlefield do not give you the right to try to compel someone to recite a pledge that is against their beliefs.

      • Blacksheep

        I dunno – I think they have just as much a right to feel and act as they do as anyone else does.

        Do you know any soldiers? “Efforts on a battlefield” is a funny way to word it, sounds almost like you are trying to downplay the sacrifice.

        • Anna Lemma

          I am a former Air Force Officer. NathanExplosion is correct. No speech, especially religious or political can be coerced from someone in the US. These vets have forgotten the Oath of Office they once took. Shame on them.

        • melissia

          “I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”

          Most soldiers take this oath quite seriously in my experience– which is the very essence, the lifeblood of patriotism among the military.

          American Legion, however, does not take it very seriously.

  • Peter Naus

    The thing that jumped out at me reading the original article, was that the Vets were making this about the “allegiance” part, trying to downplay the “under god” bit of nonsense. Which is frankly hypocritical of them, but Hemant said it better and more nicer.

    The thing that grabbed my attention in THIS post, was the fact that a) Dan Ashta wasn’t consulted during the serial “consensus” (implying, to me at least, that she only needed the quorum to be reached, whatever that is, to beat Dan’s possible anti-consensual vote), and b) Mr Ashta hasdn’t weighed in at all on this. Maybe he’s embarassed?

  • Ryan1159

    The American Legion is a political activist/lobbying group for veterans! How can they say they don’t want to be sympathetic to any particular political or religious group or cause? I donated by the way.

  • Colfalpex

    I don’t think Leslie Knope would approve of the library getting money meant for the Parks Department. If that doesn’t wake them up, next time we can donate to Eagleton!

  • BlueManticore

    I’m sorry the Park District decided to be stupid and not accept your donation, but I do want to say thank you for making the public library your second choice for the money.

  • melissia

    I’m disappointed that they didn’t accept your donation.

    But not surprised. A lot of Christian groups are so caught up in appearances that they forget their own religions’ commands– Jesus sat with the poor without preaching, feeding them and cleaning them, and told his followers to “go and do likewise”.

    Those who care more for appearances than doing good deeds are the exact kind of people that Jesus rejected the most…

  • culuriel

    I get how veterans might be huffy, as they fought for people’s right to stand for the Pledge, but didn’t they also fight for people’s right not to? Apparently, they fought for people’s rights to do only what they do.