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

American Legion demands that free citizens must recite a loyalty pledge written by a socialist December 3, 2013

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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  • 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. ._.

  • 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.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

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

  • Daniel

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

  • 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.

  • guest
  • 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).

  • Daniel
  • guest

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

  • Baby_Raptor

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

  • Promises, promises.

  • $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.

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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’?

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • wendy

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

  • 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!

  • Pat Griffin

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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! :)

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

  • 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.

  • Warren Lauzon

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