Fight Erupts When Feds Ban ‘Religious’ Memorial Day Event | The Gateway Pundit

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‘A blatant violation of the First Amendment’

This article originally appeared on WND.com

Guest by post by Bob Unruh

A fight – that could end up before the federal courts – has erupted in Virginia because officials in the National Park Service abruptly have decided to censor all “religious” events planned to honor Memorial Day at Poplar Grove National Cemetery in Petersburg.

Officials with First Liberty Institute have written to federal officials offering advice on “the right” thing to do to resolve the standoff.

“Our hope is that the National Park Service will immediately correct this error and grant the permit,” said John Moran of the McGuireWoods law firm working with the institute. “This policy and the decision to block the Knights of Columbus from continuing their long-standing religious tradition is a blatant violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Roger Byron, of First Liberty, added, “Due to the religious nature of the Knights’ annual service to honor and pray for the nation’s fallen soldiers, they have been assigned a second class status and relegated to the proverbial back of the bus. That is precisely the kind of unlawful discrimination and censorship the First Amendment was enacted to prevent. Surely this decision was an oversight.”

The problem is that while the Knights of Columbus Petersburg Council 694 has held Memorial Day services in the cemetery since the 1960s, the Parks Service now is banning them, because there is a new prohibition on “religious services.”

Disrupting a long tradition of holiday events recognizing American’s veterans, the Park Service last year denied the fraternal organization a permit to continue.

Park Service officials, under the Joe Biden administration, now are claiming that masses, or even prayer events, are now “demonstrations.”

The letter to the chief ranger at the federal location said, “There is no reason under NPS regulations or Policy Memorandum 22-01 to deny the Knights a permit to hold the service within the cemetery. Indeed, even since the adoption of Policy Memorandum 22-01, the Park Service has authorized Memorial Day masses in other National Cemeteries.”

The legal team, while it has not yet filed a formal case in court, explained that it is a violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “to discriminate against and censor the Knights’ activities solely because of their religious character.”

The letter details, “The NPS’s prohibition of the Knights’ Memorial Day service due to its religious nature is not merely unlawful content-based discrimination on speech—it is textbook viewpoint discrimination, which is per se unconstitutional. … The Knights ask NPS to do the right thing and grant them permission to host their annual Memorial Day mass in Poplar Grove National Cemetery, as the Park Service has done since time immemorial—before last year—and as it has continued to do in other National Cemeteries.”

And it included a notice to the federal facility: “We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision and promptly to grant the Knights a permit to host their annual Memorial Day mass within the walls of the Poplar Grove National Cemetery. If you persist in denying the permit, our clients intend to take all appropriate steps to protect their rights, including though litigation. We therefore ask that you preserve all relevant documents and materials in anticipation of litigation.:

The letter advised that “the right thing” to see is for the permit to be issued as it has been for decades.

Copyright 2024 WND News Center

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