Published On: Mon, Oct 21st, 2013

Pennsylvania school moves to block prayer for Veterans Day celebration, American Legion says they won’t come

American Legion Post 311 in Hawley, Pennsylvania is taking a stand: If reciting poems, veterans day quotes along with prayer by its chaplain, is not allowed for a school’s Veterans Day celebration, Legion members won’t be participating.

According to post officials, members met with the school to discuss plans for the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Wallenpaupack Area High School on Nov. 11.

At the meeting, post officials learned that their chaplain would be barred from leading a prayer because the school district was hosting the program.

“It was like a bomb dropped,” executive board member Pat Thompson said.

Thompson attended the meeting with William Kemmett, commander of the Hawley Wilson-Kelch Post 311 American Legion. They questioned whether prayer would be an issue since news surfaced that school graduation prayers led by clergy would no longer be allowed.

Thompson emphasized that the post does not fault school district staff or administrators. He said school officials were understanding of the post’s position, and everyone left on good terms.

Other parts of the program include student essay winners, patriotic songs by the entire fourth grade, and a guest speaker.

Thompson has been vocal about the prayer issue, writing a letter to the News Eagle editor.

“I was disgusted when prayer was removed from the graduation exercise. We asked at the meeting if our chaplain could say a prayer at the ceremony. We open our American Legion meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer and reciting our preamble, which starts out with ‘For God and country.’

“Veterans Day is our day and all we wanted was for our chaplain to say a prayer. There are no atheists in foxholes. Saying a prayer does not establish a religion.”


Praying Hands (Betende Hände) by Albrecht Dürer

Praying Hands (Betende Hände) by Albrecht Dürer

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Displaying 12 Comments
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  1. BusterB says:

    I guarantee there are aetheists in foxholes. They would be the ones smart enough to realize no just god would have put them in a life-threatening situation when he/she, being all powerful, could have prevented it. How do these legionnaires know otherwise? Just because a saying has been repeated interminably doesn’t make it true.

    Don’t they even know what they fought for? Freedom from religion is as important as freedom of religion. Will they be pleased if an Imam presents an Islamic prayer? This is not in any sense a country founded on Christianity. Read what the founders had to say on the subject if you don’t believe it.

    They may have defended Democracy at one time, but now they are a serious threat to Democracy. They should be ashamed.

  2. Retired Soldier says:

    This group is sadly mistaken if they think they are above the law. The SCOTUS ruling on separation of church and state applies to them also, if participating in a public school function. For them to claim religious persecution only serves to further proclaim their true intentions – forcing their particular brand of religion on participants. This type of behavior is why the American legion is failing to stay up with the times, and why recent/current service members want nothing to do with this antiquated organization.

  3. Dave B says:

    Im pretty sure that if the principle of the school contacts someone from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/) they would be happy to send a vet or serving member of the military along who will happily represent the forces and not use the event to preach.
    As for the Legion goofballs….what a disgrace. Well for the no atheists in foxholes slur they should be banned from future events till they publicly apologize. Meanwhile we can all call Whine One One and order them a waaaaaaaah-mbulance.

  4. Ray says:

    So who cares what the Legion does then? If the atheist supporters are accurate, the school should easily be able to get a replacemnet.

    The school can ban the prayer and the Legion can refuse to participate – all under the freedom available in America.

    • ZQ says:

      Actually, the school is not “free” to prohibit group prayer at school-sponsored events – as a state actor, they MUST prohibit group prayer.

      And if the Legion doesn’t like it, they are free to decline to attend.

  5. American Legion Group Demands Prayer at Public School’s Veterans Day Ceremony, but School Officials Say No says:

    […] The veterans didn’t take the news so well. They’re now saying if the school won’t allow their chaplain to say a prayer at the event, they just won’t show up: […]

  6. Sideshow Billybob says:

    “Maybe there are only atheists in foxholes. If the faithful truly and fully believe in a protective deity, why would they dive into a foxhole to protect themselves from the bullets whizzing by? A part of their brain knows damn well that if they do not protect themselves, the bullets will hardly discriminate between those who claim faith and those who reject it.”
    J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD

    Clearly the American Legion post has made this about religion by threatening to not attend without a prayer. If they truly respect ALL veterans (those of differing faiths and of none,) they’ll drop their religio-centric folly entirely.

  7. KI says:

    I am disgusted by people or organizations that feel they should have the right to force their beliefs and ceremonies on others, especially on children in public schools.

    Pray in your own home.
    Go to your church if you want to be seen praying.

    It is absolutely detestable that someone should be allowed to shove their religion in other people’s faces.

    Would the Legion be ok with leaders of OTHER religions saying “prayers” at events hosted by the local school? Hindism? Islam? etc? How about a reading of an Athiest manifesto? I bet not. Having “prayers” to only one religion at a publicly sponsored event, DOES give preference to one religion over others, and IS absolutely against the constitution.

    They have the freedom to choose wether to attend, or not, but they DO NOT have the freedom to choose to attend and violate the US Constitution. It is a disgrace that they should demand to do so.

  8. lark says:

    And here I thought that the Vets had fought for everyone and their constitution, not the bable. If only they had read more of the former, especially the part about the whole church =/= state thing. Also, atheists do exist in foxholes, and if they haven;t met any, maybe its because they were to afraid of what irrational people with guns do in the dark.

  9. John Dougherty says:

    “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

    This is demonstratively false, I am an atheist and combat veteran, along with many others.

    “Veterans Day is our day and all we wanted was for our chaplain to say a prayer.”..”Saying a prayer does not establish a religion.”

    How does it not, when it is led by a religious leader?

    This is just one of the reasons why I won’t join veterans organizations like the American Legion.

  10. KJ says:

    I thought Veterans Day was supposed to celebrate all veterans, not just the Christian ones.

    And as a veteran and an atheist I can say the “no atheists in foxholes” thing is an often repeated lie.

  11. Brian Westley says:

    Well, if these Legion members will only show up if they can impose their religion on everyone, good riddance to them. Public schools are not for religious indoctrination.

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