American Legion demands that free citizens must recite a loyalty pledge written by a socialist

The Morton Grove (Ill.) Park District requires the members of its board to stand, salute, and recite a loyalty pledge written by a socialist.

It’s not mandatory, exactly — that would clearly be illegal. But it’s still indescribably creepy. The claim is that this formal recitation of a loyalty oath is somehow an expression of patriotism. That’s obviously not true. Patriotism means love for one’s country, and coercion cannot coexist with love.

We all know this. A father is about to leave for work and he says to his young children, “Come give your daddy a hug.” If that’s an invitation, then we know that the children’s response is genuine and heart-felt. But if that’s a command — if it carries implied consequences of punishment for a failure to comply, then we cannot believe any display of apparent affection that may follow. An invitation allows for love, a command eliminates the possibility of it.

American school students salute the flag in what is meant to be a not-at-all creepy mandatory daily recitation of a loyalty oath. The original salute accompanying the pledge was abandoned in the 1940s for some reason, replaced with the current still-mandatory hand-on-the-heart.

Plus, again, it’s just plain creepy. Creepier still would be imagining such a scene in which the father commanded his young children to recite an oath of love and loyalty to him.

And yet, somehow, the idea that local officials must stand, place their hands on their hearts, and “pledge allegiance” to America is presented as something patriotic. Here again, I think, the distinction between an invitation and a command is essential. If the ritual of pledging allegiance to the flag is presented as an invitation to express one’s patriotism, then it might not be harmful. But if this ritual is commanded, required, or even just expected, then the whole business takes on an entirely different meaning — it’s no longer possible for this to be an expression of love for country, only an expression of compliance to a demand for obedience.

And in the Morton Grove Park District, it seems to have been the latter. This was confirmed by Park District Commissioner Dan Ashta — who also happens to be “an attorney who focuses on constitutional law.” One way to determine whether the recitation of the pledge was an invitation or a command would be to find out what happens if one declines to participate. So Ashta declined.

And, in return, the local American Legion post ended its practice of supporting the park district with an annual contribution of $2,600. If everyone doesn’t participate in the loyalty oath, the Legion says, then everyone will be punished — Ashta, the entire park district, and the community of Morton Grove. (So maybe, then, “contribution” isn’t quite the right word for the conditional support the Legion had been providing the town.)

“Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States,” said Alvin Owsley, American Legion Commander. To be fair, though, that was way back in 1923, and the Legion hasn’t openly advocated fascism for years. They stopped inviting Mussolini to speak at their annual convention after 1930, and most of us weren’t even born the last time they lynched a trade unionist, so let’s let bygones be bygones. Nowadays, the right-wing veterans group is mostly known for running a pretty good youth baseball league and for occasional spastic eruptions of political activism in support of enforcing a Barton-esque form of Christian hegemony.

The American Legion’s decision to punish the citizens of Morton Grove for full compliance with the loyalty oath left the park district with a bit of a funding gap. Happily, however, area resident, teacher, and Patheos blogger Hemant Mehta quickly provided a solution. Hemant raised about $3,000 from his readers and contacted the park district to see if they would accept this donation. They said yes, so he sent them a check.

But they never cashed the check. It seems that, still stinging from their punishment by the American Legion for insufficient demonstration of loyalty to godandmurkah, the district had second thoughts. They might be punished again if they were seen taking money from atheists — even from Friendly Atheists.

Hemant discusses the whole story here: “We Raised More Than $3,000 for the Morton Grove Park District and They Rejected It.” And Jonathan Bullington reported on the affair for the Chicago Tribune: “Park district returns donation to atheist blogger.” From Bullington’s report:

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.”

Now that the horses have bolted, Anderson wants to get that barn door shut. Good luck with that.

Hemant is still trying to ensure that the people of Morton Grove benefit from the funds he raised for them:

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.

If the library also turns out to be reluctant to accept a gift from friendly atheist neighbors, I’ve got an idea for a possible next step: Our fellow Patheos blogger Scot McKnight is also a Chicago-area guy. Maybe Hemant could use that Patheos connection to launder his donation through more socially acceptable religious hands? The park district could take the money and tell the American Legion it came from a respected theology professor at North Park Seminary.

That might work — as long as the Legionnaires don’t read what McKnight has to say about empire criticism and political theology. “Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not” seems just as likely to frighten the American Legion as the sight of a parks commissioner refusing to say “Hail, Caesar.”



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  • Vermic

    Creepier still would be imagining such a scene in which the father commanded his young children to recite an oath of love and loyalty to him.

    Although at least the father in this scenario is a real person, a breathing sentient individual able to hear and appreciate an oath spoken to him. There is no conscious entity called “America” listening when elementary school kids or Morton Grove board members stand for their pledges. The flag can’t hear you. You’re pledging to empty air.

    Loyalty oaths aren’t really for the benefit of the country. They’re not even for the benefit of the self (to instill better citizenship habits or whatever). Pledges are really given for, and to, the folks in earshot — the other kids in your class, or the other members of the park district — in order to reassure them that you are still a member of the tribe. You’re pledging allegience to the in-group and nothing larger.

    (Yeah, I’m not a big fan of the Pledge.)

    Are such pledges and oaths mainly an American pastime? Is this another thing, like putting flags on our cars, where other countries look in and wonder what the hell is wrong with us?

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    Oh you get flags all over the place here. Cars. Shop windows. The works.

    Black and red flags when Tullamore Rugby team have a big match. Blue and white flags when the hurling or Gaelic football teams are playing. Green, white, and yellow flags when Offaly GAA are doing something big.

    And you might actually see national flags now and again. At World Cup time. And on Patrick’s Day, perhaps.


    Of course, Northern Ireland is a different story. That place has a weird relationship with flags. Maybe even weirder than the USA’s.


  • Ross Thompson

    Yeah, in England, flying a flag means either “There’s a major international sports competition going on” or “racists live here”.

    And now my icon seems somewhat poorly chosen. Hrm.

  • Hth

    It’s okay, Ross. We know there’s always a major tennis match happening…in your heart.

  • Random_Lurker

    That’s pretty much what it means in America also. Although “I’m employed by some branch of the government” is also an explanation.

    Gives an unpleasant and not entirely inaccurate perspective on our country.

  • The_L1985

    There’s also, “I’m a car dealership,” or “It’s a national holiday.”

    I know a lot of people who only fly the flag on Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day, as a sign of respect. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a car dealership without one of those gigantic American flags.

  • Jenny Islander

    There used to be a car dealership at the bottom of our hill. When I took the kids downtown, I frequently had to stop to pick a little American flag out of the gutter, because the dealer would have his employees decorate all of the cars with them and then wouldn’t bother taking them in when a gale was forecast.

  • Ross Thompson

    I can see your point, but I think the racism it signifies in America is more along the lines of American exceptionalism, maybe with a dash of “Most crime is committed by black people, and totally not because of socio-economic factors” cultural racism.

    Flying a flag* in England is more akin to flying a Confederate flag; it’s a much more direct announcement that you want to ship all the darkies back to Africa.

    Houses that fly a flag in England will lower property values in their neighbourhood, because of the increased likelihood of violence.

    *It’s worth pointing out that this specifically refers to a St George’s Cross. Flying a Union Flag is pretty much limited to meaning “The Queen lives here”.

  • $7768756

    ….I gotta say, this makes me uncomfortable. In the US, flying the flag is certainly more prevalent than in other countries, but for that very reason, signifies LESS. It’s just a cultural thing- it’s like trying to say that preferring coffee over tea says something about you. Confederate flags, certainly, are a very specific statement, but national flags.

    I dunno- this smacks of the sort of “looking for a fight over meaningless cultural acts” that I associate with people getting their panties in a wad over “Happy Holidays” or reading way to much into your choice of vehicle. It’s a flag.

    I mean, I don’t talk about how the British are signifying their secret disdain for the democratic process by having, you know. A QUEEN with a PALACE and actual POWER IN THE GOVERNMENT. It’s their thing, they do it that way, it doesn’t hurt anyone, who cares?

  • Ross Thompson

    In the US, flying the flag is certainly more prevalent than in other countries, but for that very reason, signifies LESS. It’s just a cultural thing- it’s like trying to say that preferring coffee over tea says something about you. Confederate flags, certainly, are a very specific statement, but national flags.

    I agree entirely. My point is that if a US flag is a symbol of racism, it’s most likely a very milquetoast form, whereas in England the St George Cross denotes a virulent and violent strain of racism.

    I’m sorry if I was unclear about that.

  • W

    St George Cross denotes a virulent and violent strain of racism

    So does St Andrew’s, of course, as exemplified by the fish-faced individual usually photographed in front of it.

  • guest

    What does flying the Yorkshire flag mean? :)

  • Ross Thompson

    That you’re protesting the result of the War of the Roses?

    Honestly, having spent very little time in Yorkshire, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a thing, and have no idea what symbolism it would have.

  • myeck waters

    Yorkshire has a flag?

    So, having the pudding wasn’t enough for them?

  • guest
  • Daniel
  • guest

    :) nice colour scheme…. A man from Lancashire comes to York every year to wish us happy Yorkshire Day.

  • wendy

    How about times like William and Kate’s wedding, or George’s christening? Are UK flags all over the place then?

  • Ross Thompson

    Yes, but not English flags.

  • Carstonio

    The announcement symbolized by the Confederate flag isn’t as specific as you suggest. It usually means instead that the person believes in skin color as status, a racial hierarchy. I doubt most people who use the flag that way really think of exile for all blacks as the endgame, because they have a need to feel superior to others. Sort of how US jingoists went from being Cold Warriors to anti-Islamists, using the same terms and concepts to bash the fresh enemy, and now sound terrified of the possibility that Iran may simply be a dangerous yet manageable threat.

  • $7768756

    ummm…no? Lots of non-racist people fly American flags. I have an american flag. I know plenty of black, asian, and hispanic people that fly flags.

    Astonishingly, our countries way of doing a harmless thing is different from another countries way of doing that harmless thing! The horror!

  • myeck waters

    You used to be able to tell, in a movie or TV show, when the action was taking place in a totalitarian regime, by the large number of flags around.
    Flying a flag is harmless. When there are a ton of flags around, and it’s not a holiday, that is a symptom of a pathology.

  • $7768756


    People like to fly flags. If people in other countries don’t, whoopie for them. i don’t make moral judgements about their countries based on the relative number of flags. Hell, unless I’m in Ulster, I don’t really make judgements about the George’s Flag. (When in Northern Ireland, however, you can generally make the same judgement about the George’s and Irish flags)

    If the best evidence you have for flag flying=racist is “Well, in movies and TV there once was a trend” that’s the single weakest data point I’ve ever heard. You used to be able to tell someone was gay in a movie if they had a lisp and limp wrists. You used to be able to tell someone was a woman in a movie if she screeched and was useless.

    SPOILER: Movies and TV shows =/= real life.

  • guest

    Yeah, we get the racist exemption if England is in the World Cup (for those who don’t know, each of the UK’s four countries has a separate World Cup team).

  • PepperjackCandy

    Thank you for this. I was in London on June 7, 2002 (England played Argentina — and won!) and saw St. George’s Crosses all over the place.

    I was beginning to worry.

  • Andrew G.

    Is this another thing, like putting flags on our cars, where other countries look in and wonder what the hell is wrong with us?


  • Invisible Neutrino

    You will definitely not find proliferations of Canadian flags on houses around here; I know I look askance on houses that have flags and bunting on them. It’s like they’re trying too hard.

  • The_L1985

    I got the impression that you fly flags on Canada Day? Or was that just a weird notion I got?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Well, it’s more of an exception than the ruile. It’s not like there’s a Canadian flag hung off a pole every day of the year at most houses.

  • mattmcirvin

    I recall Canadian kids who traveled in Europe wearing Canadian flag patches on their backpacks. It primarily meant “I’m not from the USA.”

  • Pat Griffin

    I know some American kids who traveled in Europe wearing Canadian flag patches so people wouldn’t assume they were “ugly Americans.”

  • Amtep

    Well we know it’s not just you. They do it in North Korea too, so it’s not completely weird.

  • RidgewayGirl

    A lot of the American flags are just decorative objects with as much meaning as that plastic snowman or Santa Claus stuck on the front lawn in December.

  • Daniel

    Once again we see how awful atheists actually are. This park district is clearly filled with the kind of milquetoast libtards who allow a traitor to sit in their midst (I guess- it’s unlikely that someone so filled with hatred for the US can stand under his own power- that’d be too “politically incorrect” or something!!!!!) but the atheists don’t think collective punishment is suitable!!!! They are actually rewarding them! and then, if that weren’t bad enough, they decide to divert (misappropriate would be a much more “politically incorrect” term but when have liberals ever cared about truth?! They keep asking questions, and questions are not answers!!! Answers, even incorrect answers, are what matter!!!) those funds to A LIBRARY!!! Maybe some patriot should explain there’s only one book any true American needs (though they won’t know what that is- it’s not on Oprah’s reading list!!!)!!! So what could you need a library for?!! FEEDING LIES TO CHILDREN!!! Lies filed under the Dewey decimal system…! Do some research and you’ll find that he was progressive but you’ll never hear that in the libtard media!!! Hardly a surprise!!!

  • P J Evans

    It’s a good thing it’s you writing that. It sounds way too much like the kind of things right-wing-nuts write.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    Daniel, keep on being awesome!

  • Kirala

    I am disturbed to report that my Facebook feed confirms that even with this post, Poe’s Law holds true. Or perhaps the inverse of Poe’s Law: that there is no form of extremism which, lacking explicit context, cannot be mistaken for a parody thereof. Bonus points for parody-appropriate use of exclamation points.

    Actually, this is why I find Fred’s post here mildly disturbing: I could see this making the rounds in the wingnut realm (a la the Onion article describing children converting to Satanism because of Harry Potter) and whipping up anti-Pledge support by people who are so far beyond gone that they will oppose it because it’s too LEFT-wing. It… scares me to think of people losing touch with reality that way. (Or maybe they think that “under God” redeems it somehow?!)

    I may need to consider culling my FB friends. I try to avoid culling for ideology, so as to keep tabs on the range of human thought and lack thereof, but I’m tired of malicious Obama-wants-to-destroy-us-all!!!!!! homophobia!!!!!11!!1!!1! articles popping up.

  • Matri

    It would probably be better for your sanity in the long run to cull a few of the more… persistent ones.

    Or at least unsubscribe from their feeds.

  • themunck

    the Dewy decimal system. Now that sounds awfully metric to me…

  • Daniel

    The bastard used numbers.
    For books.
    That’s maths and reading.
    Elitist scum.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Public Libraries standardized on the Dewey Decimal System, and University Libraries on the Library of Congress System. Used to drive me crazy in college.

  • mattmcirvin

    The William and Mary college library actually had part of its collection on LoC and another part on Dewey Decimal. Any given book might be shelved in two different sections of the library, and only the card catalog knew for sure.

  • Melissia

    That is a creepily accurate parody.

    … do you write for The Onion? If not, you should.

  • P J Evans

    I think someone needs to explain the First Amendment to both teh American Legion and the officials of Morton Grove. They all seem to be a bit confused.

  • Ross Thompson

    Their original statement seems a bit confused on that point.

    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.

    “We died so you could have the right not to pledge allegiance. And exercising that right would be spitting in the faces of those dead people!”

  • mattmcirvin

    The Legion also prominently advocated an anti-flag-desecration amendment to the Constitution, back when that was a live political issue. (They may still.) At least they realized one would be necessary in order to actually ban it.

  • LL

    Where’s Leslie Knope when we need her?

  • AnonymousSam

    “Daddy loves me, this I know, because our contract tells me so…”

  • AnonymousSam

    I think I just skeeved myself out re-reading that. Um. Let me know if that triggers anyone and I’ll remove it ASAP. O.o

  • Daniel

    Erm… I don’t know what it says about me that I upvoted it immediately. Wait… yes I do. I have a heart as black and pitiless as an obsidian knife.

  • AnonymousSam

    But do you deal prismatic damage?

  • Daniel

    I have bejewelled cufflinks, but sadly I think I’m more likely to do sleaze damage than any other sort.

  • Raksha38

    Another KOL player! My mind immediately went to prismatic damage, too. If they’re not going to reintroduce the obsidian knife, they need to at least make it mall-able, because I need to do something with the dozens of them I have in my inventory.

  • AnonymousSam

    And along with it, do something with Spectre Scepter while they’re at it, like make them craftable into a Chefstaff.

    I actually just got back into the game recently after a hiatus of over three years, when I began an oxycore run on March 17 of 2009, stalled out sometime that year and finally discovered I could prematurely end it in 2012. 62 ascensions under my belt and a decent number of shinies. Latest accomplishment was getting the full Clothing of Loathing set.

  • Raksha38

    Nice! Yeah, Oxycore is tough. For some freaking reason, I thought it was a good idea to do a Level 30 Pastamancer run on my second ascension ever and that…was not a good idea. Almost burned me out entirely and I took a big break in the middle of it.

    I’m going to ascend once more and then just coast until Crimbo. I was planning to work on my Clothing of Loathing then. Plus I’m working on some of the newer trophies they’ve introduced. I’m a little OCD about collecting all the ones still available (Pantsless is the bane of my existence. I was in the game then, I just didn’t get it). I’m up to 115 already, but some of the Dreadsylvania ones are taking foreeeeeeever.

    Do you have a clan? I’m in KOL Addicts and it’s really fun. We have a very active clan chat and I even have a radio show on our clan radio network!

  • AnonymousSam

    I’ve got two clans I bounce between (Bonus Adventures from Hell and one I can’t name in this space to whom I owe certain loyalties), but if your clan wouldn’t mind an inconsistent presence and would whitelist me, I’d be happy to come in to participate in dungeons and chat. My main clan isn’t extremely active, so I’m really just another body there who occasionally helps with dungeons (I tend to ascend so often that I’m not around for dungeons as much as I’d like).

  • Raksha38

    I’m not in charge of that stuff, but I do know we have a lot of other people whitelisted, so I don’t see why they’d have a problem with another one. If anyone asks, tell them Darth Lenore sent you :)

  • Raksha38

    Oh hey, I mentioned you in chat today and one of our clan admins was there and put you on the whitelist already! :)

  • AnonymousSam

    Well then! … I’m being plotted against! But I’m on to your game. I’ve already hidden the antidote! :o

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yeah, love, that’s a tiny bit…Ugh.

    Don’t feel obligated to remove it just because I said something…You know how easily some shit triggers me. Just saying, it might hit other people too.

  • The_L1985

    *hugs* I’m sorry you were hurt.

  • Melissia

    :( I don’t have that kind of trigger, so I guess I can only try to empathize. Some wounds take a long time to heal…

  • AnonymousSam

    Yeah, there are some things in my own past I prefer not to think about either, but I couldn’t resist something that was totally creepypasta. ._.

  • Baby_Raptor

    It’s fine. I’ll just spank you for it later. :)

  • AnonymousSam

    Promises, promises.

  • The_L1985

    My dad never said anything explicitly, but there was always the implicit assumption that Daddy would do Something Terrible if we didn’t respect his wishes even in non-mandatory things.

    I dealt with it using the best weapon in my arsenal: Lying through omission.

  • Laurent Weppe

    I can perfectly imagine your hypothetical father waking up the morning, realizing that neither his children nor his wife slit his throat during his sleep, and thinking “I’ve won, again, I’m still the Master of the Household”.

    And that’s the same thing with powerful people who want to force pledges of allegiance: the goal is not “show me that you love your country“, the goal is “show me that you are obedient and submissive toward the country’s institution, therefore toward the country’s ruling class, therefore toward ME“.

  • Daniel

    scene opens on father waking in his separate single bed on the opposite side of the bedroom from his wife, asleep in a high necked, chintzy nightgown with rollers in her hair. He walks past the various frilly knick knacks she has added to soften the masculinity of the room, to the equally chintzy curtains, throws them open,inhales deeply, and smiles.
    Father: What a wonderful day! No one murdered me in my sleep!
    Mother: [groggily waking up] Good morning dear!
    Father: [lighting his pipe] Good morning! You did the right thing not trying to kill me in my sleep, you know. That really proves you love me.
    Mother: Yes, dear. I was very tired.
    Father: Hmm, I know. You didn’t even have the energy to poison my glass of water.
    Mother:[wearily- she is used to this] No, dear.
    Father: Or cut me up with an axe. Or shoot me.
    Mother: Well I’d hardly have done that, would I?
    Father: No, I suppose not. You’re not a man, after all.
    Father: Hmm.
    Mother: What’s wrong?
    Father: Nothing… it’s just little Ray Jnr didn’t try to kill me either.
    Mother: So?
    Father: Well, if I haven’t got that to worry about…
    [Mother gets up, comes over and kisses him on the cheek]
    Mother: Don’t be like that dear! There’s still traitors, atheists, socialists, muslims, Financiers, unwed mothers, black people, Europeans, hippies, the Chinese, the Russians, Iran, evolution and gun control to worry about!
    Father: You’re right dear! Gee, you’re swell! Just when I think there’s no one focusing all their energies on destroying me, you know just what to say!

    Mother: I sure do: you’re in control, honey, and everything you demand of me is entirely reasonable.

    he strolls out happy and secure in the knowledge that the whole world is still focused exclusively on attacking him. All his insecurities are justified again, and any steps he takes to protect against them are fine.

  • W

    Surely while it would be wrong to command a person to take an oath of allegiance, it is perfectly fine to say that a holding particular post of responsibility is conditional on taking it.

    That’s not ‘compelling’ love for one’s country, it’s simply saying that one of the qualifications for this post is that one loves one’s country (or at least is willing to take the pledge of allegiance; the degree to which that can be taken as a proxy for love for one’s country is beside the point).

    People are free to choose to stand for the post (and so declare themselves wiling to take the pledge) or be unwilling to take the pledge (and so disqualify themselves from the post).

    Otherwise, one could claim that marriage precludes the possibility of love because in order to be married one is compelled to make a public declaration of love.

    Clearly that’s nonsense, because it is backwards: it is not that one is compelled to make a public declaration of love to be married, but rather the very fact that one chooses to make a public declaration of love proves that one is qualified to be married.

    Similarly, if a post requires that one love one’s country (and I have no idea what an ‘American League’ is, but I presume it’s some kind of organisation, in which case I presume that there’s a constitution which can state that such is a requirement) then making a public pledge to that effect signifies beyond doubt (unless the person is perjuring themselves) that someone is qualified (in that respect) to hold that post.

    So it seems a fair enough requirement.

  • AnonymousSam

    Otherwise, one could claim that marriage precludes the possibility of love because in order to be married one is compelled to make a public declaration of love.

    Except last I knew, people weren’t threatening to beat up or murder people who didn’t make that public declaration of love on demand several times a week for the approval of others.

  • Hth

    Actually, is that even true? If I were to apply for a marriage license and take vows in front of witnesses that made no mention of my loving feelings toward my affianced, wouldn’t it still be a perfectly legal marriage? It’s commonly assumed that spouses will more or less love one another in our culture, but it’s not technically *required.* Even less is it required to prove that I love my spouse by verbally declaring it. If I wrote my wedding vows to say, “Yarrrr, matey, let’s be sailin’ through life together and split the plunder fifty-fifty,” I’m pretty sure the legality of it would be unaffected.

    The awesomeness of it, of course, would increase.

  • AnonymousSam

    Quite right. Which just makes it even less comparable.

    The Pledge is about tribalism, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Amtep

    Unfortunately… some authorities do investigate that part. I don’t know how it is in the US, but in several EU countries when you get married to a foreigner, the police is going to check that it isn’t a “sham marriage” for the sake of immigration — and they get to make up the rules for that.

  • Ross Thompson

    Speaking as a foreigner who married an American in America: yes, they do have rules about that. We had to put together a photo album of ourselves to prove that we’d actually spent time together in the months following our wedding before I could apply for a Green Card (aside: It’s weird how many people think I automatically became a citizen on my wedding day). And had we gotten divorced or separated within the first two years, I would have been deported – they reserve the right to visit our home without notice to confirm that we live together.

    But, being white and British, this was really all a formality.

  • W

    being white and British, this was really all a formality

    I should think so too.

    I hope they didn’t attempt to let or hinder you, either. Their country isn’t too old to have its bottom spanked or its capital city burnt to the ground again.

  • Daniel

    Honestly, we do them the courtesy of giving them the place, and look how they behave towards us afterwards. I don’t know about “land of the free” but they’re certainly taking bally liberties if you ask me.

  • Lorehead

    Well, keep that up, and next time you get into a war with the Germans, we won’t even help until we get attacked ourselves. And have I mentioned lately how the French didn’t fight Hitler hard enough before December 7, 1941?

  • Ross

    Parts of the phrasing of the vows are mandated by state law.

  • Daniel

    Except it’s the American Legion asking that a separate body- the Morton Grove Park District- swears an oath. It’s also hardly an adequate check on how much someone “loves their country”- and why that would be relevant to the post any way. Surely you can be a good at your job as an administrator whilst being indifferent to or even resentful of your country at large?

  • W

    Except it’s the American Legion asking that a separate body- the Morton Grove Park District- swears an oath

    And what’s wrong with them asking, as a condition of their donation? Note not, as the article claims, ‘commanding or ‘coercing’ but asking?

    And equally, what’s wrong with the body refusing?

  • Daniel

    Well, for one thing it’s a bit hard hearted to make demands of an organization to express beliefs they may not agree with or see the need for, as well as it being irrelevant to their ability to do their jobs. And when they withhold the donation to punish the whole group because one person doesn’t do what they ask it ceases to be a request and it becomes a bullying abuse of their power. They know the park district is dependent on that money, and they are demanding that they perform a ritual in order to receive it. Most of them went along with this. But the Legion saw nothing wrong in collective punishment- despite the fact that most people regard that as wrong, not least the United States itself, to which they were supposed to be swearing allegiance.
    The body are refusing the money from atheists because they know that this will attract publicity from people who buy into the narrative that patriotism and religious faith are hand in glove, and that one cannot exist without the other. So essentially the Legion are blackmailing the park district twice over- do the ritual, regardless of how you feel about it, and be aware that if you accept money from an atheist donor it will be interpreted as confirming your anti-patriotism. This is bullying. It’s all there in what Fred wrote.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    What’s fair about it?

    Whether someone believes in the pledge, or is even ‘patriotic’ (which means very different things to different people, for example I believe American patriotism is better expressed by refusing to say the pledge than by saying it) is irrelevant to whether they can serve the community by working on the Park District.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Reciting the pledge is in no way a sign of loving your country. I did 4 years in the Army, two tours in Iraq and I refuse to say the pledge.

    And, really, do you want someone whose willing to lie sitting in a position of power? Haven’t we had enough of that lately?

  • P J Evans

    I’m pretty sure that the various spies and traitors in the US over the last 60 or so years said the pledge, so it doesn’t do anything to make people patriotic. Or even good citizens.

  • stardreamer42

    Of course they said it. A real spy or traitor wouldn’t do anything to draw attention to themselves. In fact, while they wouldn’t be first to lead the calls of “anti-American” about someone who didn’t say it, if asked for comment they would certainly say the politically-correct thing. “No comment,” after all, would be almost as bad as saying they agreed with the dissenter(s).

  • mattmcirvin

    I’ve heard it speculated that the people who put “Under God” in there thought crypto-Communists were like vampires, and would start cringing and hissing or burst into flames when the line came up.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    As I understand it, “Under God” was added during the Cold War, in contrast to the USSR’s official Atheism.

  • Kirala

    Reiterating what Daniel said – the American Legion has no authority or connection with the Park Service except the fact that they “charitably” donate money. Nor is the American Legion a duly appointed authority of any kind. I agree that an oath of office is not out of line for public jobs, but it was not the public or any legal system of authority making the demand here. It was a private entity.

    Of course, the Pledge has its own issues as an “oath of office” which I would say render it unfit to pass the First Amendment test anyway, but that’s a separate point.

  • P J Evans

    Fortunately, no one seems to think it’s an oath of office. Although the AL could use some serious straightening-out – but they do anyway.

  • The_L1985

    I tend to automatically read “AL” as “Alabama,” but they could use some straightening-out too.

  • Veylon

    Being a proper conservative, you could always insist that you take it as it was originally written by a man of God and thus omit the religious bits.

  • The_L1985

    I think I’ll do that the next time I’m asked to say the Pledge.

    “I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” *offended stares* “What? That’s how Francis Bellamy, a Baptist preacher, originally wrote the Pledge. Anything else that’s been added isn’t by Bellamy, ergo it is not the Pledge of Allegiance.”

  • W

    So, wait — the American Legion is a private organisation deciding how to spend its money?
    So who is being ‘forced’ to take an oath? Last I heard, private organisations and individuals were free to decide ow to spend their money, and could give or withhold it for any reason, up to and including not liking your face.

    If a private organisation wants to decide what it is doing with its money based on whether a board requires someone to take an oath, how is that anybody’s business but the private organisation’s, its directors, and those who give it money (who may themselves of course want to change whether they give money to the organisation based on its behaviour, as is entirely up to them).

    Who exactly is being ‘compelled’ to do anything in this scenario?

    If I offer a donation of £100,000 to, say, a local park, on condition that everyone involved in running it takes an oath of loyalty to Captain Pugwash, then I’m not ‘compelling’ anybody to do anything: I’m offering a choice. Take the money, with the conditions that I am perfectly within my rights to attach because it is my private money, or don’t accept the conditions and do without the money.

    How is this situation different than an organisation offering money with conditions, and giving the recipient the free choice of accepting the conditions and the money, or rejecting both?

    I can see no compulsion anywhere.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    The problem with this isn’t force, but compulsion doesn’t only mean the use of force – it can also mean “to pressure.”

    Charitable donations are given to parks in order to make parks better, more accessible, and more enjoyable to the community.

    Through pulling its annual donation after a member of the parks commission refused to say the pledge, this reveals that the American Legion’s motivations is not to make parks better, more accessible, and more enjoyable to the community, but to only do so if obeisance is given in the way the American Legion prefers.

    This means the problem is not that the American Legion is forcing anyone to do something, but that the American Legion is run by jerks who don’t care much about whether parks are better, more accessible, or more enjoyable.

  • Melissia

    Also, the American Legion is run by unpatriotic liars who care more for appearance than for actual loyalty to the country.

  • W

    the American Legion’s motivations is not to make parks better, more
    accessible, and more enjoyable to the community, but to only do so if
    obeisance is given in the way the American Legion prefers

    And is that not entirely up to them, as a private organisation?

    People are, after all, entirely free to be jerks if they want to be jerks. they have, by themselves, no power to compel anyone to do anything, so they are free to act as jerkishly as they want and that freedom is their right.

    (The idea seems to be that this money is some form of ‘indecent proposal’: the money would be useful, but the moral compromise involved in taking it is unconscionable. Well, in that case there’s a simple solution: don’t take the money. There is an important difference between pressure and compulsion, which is that compulsion means duress. If Robert Redford threatens to break Woody Harrelson’s legs unless he gets Demi Moore, that’s compulsion. But if he just offers a million dollars, that’s not compulsion, because Demi has the totally free choice as to whether to refuse the money or compromise herself.)

    (OED definition of ‘compel’: ‘To urge irresistibly, to constrain, oblige, force’. If there’s choice, then there is no compulsion, even if there’s pressure. For it to be ‘compulsion’ there must be no choice: for example, if the law was ‘make this pledge or go to gaol’, that’s compulsion. If, on the other hand, it’s ‘make this pledge and get some money, or forego the money’ then that’s not compulsion. The OED says so.)

    There are stricter standards to apply to governments, because they actually do have powers to compel, and that’s why the holder of a government post is not just allowed to do whatever they like but must act within the ways and powers prescribed. At least, that’s the principle we established in 1215AD that the state is subject to the law rather than the other way around.

    That stricter standard is why we wouldn’t like it if a government started making laws that, say, required people to swear loyalty to the Crown or not get their benefits.

    But a private person, or a private organisation made up of private persons? They can be jerks all they like, can’t they?

  • Aeryl

    Yes they can, but we are also free to call them out for being jerks, which is what we are doing here.

  • W

    Except that the article repeatedly uses the word ‘command’ when, in fact, no command has been issued.

    An offer has been made: money for performing a certain action.

    A jerkish offer it may be, but in no sense is it a ‘command’.

    The article, therefore, is inaccurate in its premise.

  • Aeryl

    The inability to say no without suffering consequences is not offering people a meaningful choice, therefore implying “command”, did you not READ the article?

  • W

    So, wait — if I were to offer you a couple of grand on condition you shave your head, I’m not offering you a meaningful choice?

    After all, if you say, ‘no’ to the head-shaving, you suffer the consequences of not getting the couple of grand, so by your definition I am not offering you a meaningful choice.

    That can’t be right, can it?

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    Read the OP – the American Legion’s annual donation to the Parks pre-dates the issue of the pledge.

    The jerkish thing happening here is a donation to charity done not under the auspices of the charitable assistance, but for the purpose of getting the pledge said as a form of obeisance.

  • W

    All sorts of money is donated to charities with strings, and withdrawn if the charity says they no longer wish to abide by the strings.

    Are you suggesting that private organisations and individuals shouldn’t ever reconsider their charitable donations if the charity changes the way it operates in ways they disagree with?

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    But the charity didn’t change the way it operated. Some guy just didn’t say the pledge – that’s different from changing charity operations.

  • Aeryl

    If you’d been giving me the couple grand for years prior WITHOUT that condition attached.

  • W

    Clearly they had always been giving it with the condition implicitly attached, and it just hadn’t been relevant before because the parks body had been abiding by the condition.

    If the parks body changes its method of operation, are its donors not allowed to reconsider their donations?

    If a charity you regularly donate to changes its operations in a way which conflicts with your principles (it does happen sometimes), would you not be perfectly entitled to withdraw your financial support?

  • myeck waters

    “Clearly they had always been giving it with the condition implicitly attached…”
    Citation needed.

  • AnonymousSam

    If you made that offer to me—someone who is facing the very real possibility of being penniless and homeless this winter—it would be a command, yes, because I am in no position to refuse. So it depends entirely on the recipient of that offer. This is similar to why ethics boards are required to review medical experiments, because if participants are doing it for money they can’t afford not to have, then they may be incapable of giving meaningful consent.

  • W

    But you are in a position to refuse, because if you refuse, you are in no worse a position than if I had not made the offer in the first place. You can refuse and you are no worse off.

    Whereas if I can put you in gaol for refusing, then you are in a worse position than if I had not made the offer.

    This is why governments (which can send you to gaol) are held to a higher standard than private individuals (who can leave you no worse off than if they had not made the offer in the first place).

    So really, if I offer you a couple of grand with the condition that you do something against your principles, you do have a real choice, don’t you? After all, if you refuse, you are in no worse a position than if I had not made the offer at all.

    And if you accept, you have to accept the responsibility for doing whatever it is you did to get the money. Right?

  • AnonymousSam

    “Of course you can refuse. If you do, you’ll die slowly and painfully and so will anyone dependent on you, but you’re no worse off than you were before, so of course you have a meaningful choice.”

    Yeah, no.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    Um – they are being jerks. What’s your point?

    Are you trying to say we don’t have the right to criticize them for being jerks?

    Are you making a strawman argument that someone in this post has said the American Legion should be forced to stop being jerks?

    I don’t get why you’re posting if you agree that they’re bring jerks.

    As to the definition issue, see here: compulsion can be used to mean “pressure.”

  • W

    And who are you going to believe about the Queen’s English, the OED or some American website?
    Do you dispute that the article, in its opening paragraphs, makes great play of the idea that board members ‘must’ do something, that they are under ‘coercion’ to do something, that they are being ‘commanded’ to do something? And that these terms are all brought out to increase the emotional impact of the article?

    When in fact none of these things is happening. What is happening is that they are being offered money with strings attached.

    All kinds of organisations are offered money with all kinds of strings attached all the time. It’s nothing unusual. There is a procedure for dealing with it: you decide whether the money is worth the strings.

    The article’s writer is trying to make out that some great injustice has been done, some massive wrong whereby the evil American League, whatever that is, is imposing its will on some parks committee.

    But that isn’t what’s happening at all.

    It’s exactly as if the parks committee had been offered money by a local business on condition they put up banners advertising the business in the park, but decided that they wanted the parks to remain an advertising-free zone, so declined the money.

    But that wouldn’t be news — it happens all the time. So the article-writer has tried to manufacture newsworthiness by using emotive terms like ‘coercion’ and ‘command’ and ‘creepy’.

    But the article, in fact, is lying. No coercion has taken place, no command has been issued, no one ‘must’ do anything.

    A body was offered money with strings attached. They decided they didn’t like the strings, so they have not got the money.

    Dog bites man. there is no story here, and trying to dress it us as a great injustice is disingenuous at best and downright mendacious at worst.

  • Ross Thompson

    A body was offered money with strings attached. They decided they didn’t like the strings, so they have not got the money.

    Well, not quite. They were offered money repeatedly and freely. They accepted said money. The offering body then decided that they were going to stop offering the money, because one of the people involved did an unrelated thing they didn’t like. Fine, but jerky.

    Then, a second body offered to replace the money they were missing out on, without any conditions or stings, and the recipients said “yes please” until they got the actual cheque, when they said “no thanks, that would be too political”. Also, fine, but jerky.

    And so people are saying “wow, those guys are jerks.” No-one is claiming the AL should be forced to give money to the parks department, or that the parks department should be forced to accept money from atheists. People are saying that they shouldn’t be such jerks bout it.

  • W

    And so people are saying “wow, those guys are jerks.”

    That’s not quite true.

    One person — the writer of the article — is not saying ‘those guys are jerks’ but is using emotive words like ‘must’, ‘coercion’ and ‘command’, despite the fact that none of those are in any way an accurate reflection of events, in order to make the events seem to be some great injustice, some violation of a grand principle.

    The article, as written, is disingenuous in the extreme.
    (It’s a standard journalistic tactic, of course: make a wild, emotional, huge, lying statement that grabs attention and gets people riled up; and then when it’s pointed out that your statement was wild, emotional, huge and lying, retreat into claiming that you only ever meant a much much weaker form. It’s part of why everybody, with good reason, hates journalists.)

  • myeck waters

    Grow up. Fred’s article is accurate. The American Legion did in fact demand the pledge be performed by all. Just because the only stick they had was withholding the funding doesn’t mean their demand wasn’t a demand.

  • W

    That’s only a ‘demand’ if you agree that a local business sponsoring the park is on condition that the park prominently display a ‘sponsored by Smith’s Sweet [US: Candy] Shop’ notice, and removing said sponsorship if they decide they would not be a venue for advertising, is a ‘demand’.

    So you agree that that is a ‘demand’?

  • myeck waters

    It is a demand. It’s just not a demand that’s backed by force of arms or whatever.
    Just because the consequences they can bring to bear are small doesn’t mean they aren’t making a demand.

  • W

    So why is it a big deal that they are making this demand?

    I demand you give me all your cheese! I demand you stand on your head and shout, ‘God save the Queen!’

    If I have no means, power or ability to force you to comply with my demands, is it worth somebody writing a rabble-rousing article on the internet about my demands of you, or should you just ignore them?

    So why does the parks body just ignore the demands that they don’t agree with, that the American League thing has no power to force them to comply with? Why does somebody write the kind of emotive internet article on which I am commenting instead of just ignoring what is, basically, a non-story?

  • myeck waters

    Seriously dude, give it up. It’s clear now that you’re just trying to distract from the subject.

  • dpolicar

    And they appear to have succeeded.

  • myeck waters

    From the news item: “Post 134 pays $300 to sponsor the Easter Extravaganza, $300 to sponsor
    the Halloween Family Festival, $1,000 to sponsor the Party in the Park
    events, and contributes $1,000 toward 4th of July fireworks, according
    to Lampert.”
    So the AL post had been giving money every year to the Park District to help fund a variety of programs that presumably benefit area citizens – not to benefit the PD council or its members. Then they heard that *gasp* one council member *SITS* during the POA. And the AL post demanded that that all council members must stand during the POA or they would cut off the funding that benefits the area residents.
    So, yeah.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    It sounds like your issue is with the Chicago Tribune article – I haven’t read it, just Fred’s post and the Hemant Mehta piece. Maybe that’s why I don’t see where you’re coming from.

  • W

    I haven’t read anything from the Chicago Tribune, just this article here on which I am commenting. If i had an issue with another article, I wouldn’t comment on this article to express it; that would make no sense.

  • moebius2778

    [quote]Otherwise, one could claim that marriage precludes the possibility of
    love because in order to be married one is compelled to make a public
    declaration of love.[/quote]

    I don’t know about your state, but mine only requires filling out some paperwork and an application fee to get married.

  • smrnda

    Same in about all states. One is completely free to make no public displays of love or affection while getting married.

    The analogy of marriage and the actions of the Legion make me think of people who get offended that So and So they Know (their niece, nephew, distant relative, friend of friend) is having a wedding and isn’t doing it *the way they think it should be done* and therefore refuse to go. It would be asinine to require that a couple express their public commitment *in a way that YOU find pleasing* as a condition of supporting their union. Demanding someone express patriotism in the way you prefer is equally annoying.

    Some religions (like the JWs) don’t stand for the pledge, and by demanding that all stand people like that are being told they cannot be proper Americans and are unfit for any public office, which puts a show of ‘patriotism’ ahead of the ideal of religious choice and no religious tests for holding office.

  • Jim Roberts

    Marriage does not require a public declaration of love. Your logic is flawed.

  • Donalbain

    No. You are wrong, Factually and morally.
    1) This is not a private entity that says members must say the pledge, it is a group saying that a publicly elected official must say the pledge.

    2) That is saying that a person must profess certain political views in order to be eligible for office. That is horrific.

  • Lorehead

    One problem with that is that it’s an explicitly religious oath, and the Constitution itself states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” And the amendments extend this principle of religious freedom to state and local governments.

    I didn’t find anything in the Pledge personally objectionable enough that I didn’t say it, but surely it would be better to pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the principles for which it stands, of liberty and justice for all?

  • Baby_Raptor

    Handing the donation to a Christian is the wrong idea. It just reinforces the idea that Atheists are inferior and bad, so the only proper way to go about it is to go through the “right” people.

    This isn’t something you should be encouraging, Fred.

  • Kirala

    As I started to type this question, I realized it could be taken several ways, so first let me state the intended tone: genuinely curious, wanting to know.

    Do you think the “laundering” scheme was serious? Because I took it as further satirical posturing, not something I’d think would be in-character for Fred to seriously suggest. Though I could have easily missed something.

  • Lori

    The think the fact that Fred pointed out why the Christian shouldn’t actually be any more acceptable to the Legion than the atheists backs up your interpretation.

  • arghous

    Anyone remember Abortionists for Buchanon?

  • The_L1985

    I was too young to care about politics yet, but…that is awesome! Michael Moore can be pretty nasty sometimes, but I have to admit that was a pretty cool experiment.

  • Yawny

    So…the Park District is carefully going over all of its other donations now, right? Just to make sure that none of them come from people who might have agendas that would tangle them in any “particular political or religious cause.” And if the American Legion decides to donate in the future, say after Ashta gets shoved out, the District will reject it as a matter of principle, right?

    Hahahaha. I do amuse myself sometimes.

    I hope the library takes the money.

  • tricksterson

    I haven’t watched the show enough to do it myself but someone needs to make a Parks and Recreation related joke on this.

    I am wondering though WWRSD (What Would Ron Swanson Do)?

  • stardreamer42

    “I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the Republic which it established: one nation from many peoples, promising Liberty and Justice for all.”

    This is what I say now when required to recite that loyalty oath. It will doubtless get me into trouble sooner or later, but it’s something I can swear honestly. And the Constitution is more than an empty and malleable symbol.

  • AnonymousSam

    And it wasn’t made in China! :p

  • Michael Pullmann

    My copy was printed in Canada, though.

  • Melissia

    Heh. Personally, I’m okay with Canada-made items. Canada’s a pretty cool place, in spite of the ultra-right wingers attempting to ruin it (but the same could be said about the USA).

  • tricksterson

    Canada, China, both Communist countries. j/k

  • Jon Erickson

    A number of years ago (6 or 7) I was thrown out of the American Legion for not saying the pledge, which I have not done since I came back from Vietnam. The issue went all the way to the Judge Advocate General of the Legion and back again. The leaders of our local post were instructed to come apologize to me and ask me to come back. I am still currently a member. Canadians (who served in WWII and live in the U.S. can belong but would not say the pledge), Jehovah’s Witnessess, Atheists, and people like myself who hold their spiritual values over their political ones (thou shalt have no other gods before me and thou shall not worship any graven image) are all accepted in the American Legion. Six months after my ordeal, I was informed by our District Commander that the Judge Advocate General was travelling around the United States giving seminars to post commanders and adjutants and all District and state officers on why you cannot throw someone out of the Legion for not saying the pledge.

    I find the statement that the post there, says that many men and women died for the freedom to not be so controlled, but then demand that people give up that freedom is absurd. “while we support that right, we do not accept it” They are essentially saying that while many servicemen and women died for that right, you can’t have it. It seems to me that it is the Legion in this instance that is spitting on the graves of those who died for that freedom.

    Jon Erickson USN
    Brush, Colorado

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Notice your illustration of the Pledge of Allegiance with the original Roman-style salute…

    (The Nazis ripped off that salute from the Italian Fascists, who in turn copied it from the ancient Romans. Mussolini was obsessed with the Roman Empire.)

  • Daniel

    Fascists and Nazis used different hands. Sorry, extremely petty pedantry there.

  • Warren Lauzon

    To make things really fun, why not give the check to the Salvation Army. :)