Legion Publishes Political Platform, Under God

The American Legion has supported veterans since they received a Congressional Charter in 1919. They began with a Preamble “For God and Country” to ensure “First things have been put first. All that follows is in conformity.” It’s difficult to see military service co-opted to promote religious values above American values. But maybe the Preamble recognizes religious members and heritage while still honoring veterans. The new Legion political issues statement, Our Pillars, Your Platform, will provide a good point of review in advance of the Aug 24 Legion convention.

 

Our Pillars, Your Platform

There are four major platforms, as there have been in the past – Veterans Affairs, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth. The vast majority of the document lays out honorable and invaluable support for veterans. Only in the area of “Americanism” does the platform seem to part ways with many veterans. The Committee Chairman introduces the platform by defending his religious nation:

Activists aim to distort and twist the core values of patriotism, morality and religion that gave birth to our nation, under God. They aim to kick God out of our public squares.

These attacks, featured in the Legion platform, push veterans away from the organization. This shows a great need for outreach and dialogue so a the Legion, which is a private organization, can honor its religious heritage and members while not alienating veterans. MAAF was invited to respond on the Legion Burn Pit blog, and that dialogue should continue because there is a vast gulf to overcome.

Continuing the sentiment of the introductory comments, the Americanism platform sounds more like a Tea Party platform.

The nation’s cultural, moral and patriotic values have been under attack for decades, a disheartening trend that continues today. Prayer has been removed from schools. The U.S. Flag is no longer protected from desecration. The Boy Scouts of America have faced serious legal challenges in some communities they serve. Immigration laws are defied. References to God on U.S. currency, in the Pledge of Allegiance and on public monuments have been challenged by a minority of voices whose vision for America is far different than that of our founding fathers.

Within the Americanism platform, the Legion lashes out against all aspects of a secular government and and the secular pledge that got us through WWII. About the pledge, the Legion wants to ensure that no one is denied the “opportunity”  to pledge allegiance in schools. The secular position is merely that a religious pledge is available to anyone any time. What the Legion is advocating for is the requirement for school children to be directed in the Pledge by public officials every day. Honestly representing both sides of the issue is the first step to honoring all veterans.

The American Legion is dedicated to combating the secular cleansing of our American heritage, performed through lawsuits that attack the Boy Scouts, the public display of the Ten Commandments and other symbols of America’s religious history. … Often, these proceedings are based on the pursuit of tax-funded attorney fees.

When the desire for Constitutional separation of church and state and the opportunity to be both American and atheist is reduced to an issue of greed, as in the Legion platform, the Legion shows it has no understanding of the policies and people they oppose.

MAAF recognizes the strong religious beliefs and values of many veterans, even the majority of veterans. While some may be advocating for the Christianization of America, many are merely defending their individual rights to worship and their reverence for religion in US history. Those advocating for secular government also want to protect historical symbols and personal rights to worship. It is clear that the majority of the Legion platform supports veterans, but it is disturbing when the organization provides services with a first priority of religious beliefs rather than honoring veterans.

According to USC Code Title 36-II-B Section 21702, the purposes of the Legion include defending the Constitution, honoring and connecting veterans, and “to promote peace and good will among the peoples of the United States and all the nations of the Earth.” The Preamble starts right off with “For God and Country” but that religious bias should not be to the exclusion of the purposes of veterans support in the Congressional Charter.

 

3 Responses to Legion Publishes Political Platform, Under God

  1. Bridget Ludwa O'Hanlon

    I know this is a dated article, but I just today started a discussion thread on AL’s LinkedIn discussion page. I basically argued that we ought to be focusing on our shared American citizenship or service in our local communities as defining Americanism, not using something that further divides us.. Someone responded that they agreed that Americanism didn’t necessitate a theistic belief, but then called attention to “for God” at the beginning of the Preamble.. I asked if they recommended a Veteran without a theistic perspective not be a Legionnaire, if that was a point of concern for them, or how he thinks the AL could serve Veterans and their families lacking that theistic belief. We’ll see how the discussion plays out!

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