American Legion yanks cash from Morton Grove Park District due to pledge boycott

W1siZiIsImltYWdlcy9wbGVkZ2VfaS1NR0MtMTAzMTIwMTMuanBnIl0sWyJwIiwiY29udmVydCIsIi1yZXNpemUgNzcweDQwMF5eIC1ncmF2aXR5IENlbnRlciAtY3JvcCA3NzB4NDAwKzArMCAtc3RyaXAgK3JlcGFnZSJdXQThe American Legion is withdrawing all financial support for the Morton Grove Park District until a park board member stands for the Pledge of Allegiance or is no longer on the board.

Post 134 Commander Joseph Lampert attended the Oct. 24 park board meeting to confront Commissioner Dan Ashta on his choice not to stand for the Pledge, and to announce the Legion’s decision.

“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.”

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.

Ashta responded during his commissioner report, and thanked Lampert for speaking his mind. However, Ashta maintained his position, just as he did on Aug. 15 when he responded to similar concerns from former Village Clerk Eileen Coursey Winkler.

“This section of the agenda says Pledge of Allegiance, and I feel like we’re compelling people to speak,” Ashta said, noting that the First Amendment affords the right to also not talk. “So you either stand up and say it or you don’t, but either way you’re making a statement. If you come to the meeting, you don’t have a choice but to make a statement.”

Ashta said he doesn’t want to make people pledge allegiance to a government they might oppose and want to reform. Likewise, he said people with religious objections should not have to feel isolated or unwanted for not standing.

“I’m not entirely sure it’s accurate to say this is a personal choice, but more of a duty. I have an obligation as an elected official to uphold the constitution,” Ashta said. “I have a sincere, serious relationship with the law. I study law and constitutional law is of particular interest to me. I think the Constitution is what makes this country great and worth making sacrifices for. Countries with weak constitutions usually don’t last.”

Ashta said he believes what he’s doing is right, and tried to reconcile with Lampert by saying both of them are good for the country.

“It really saddens me when I hear people say that they think what I’m doing is disrespectful,” Ashta said. “I do appreciate the sacrifices people have made so that I can be here at this meeting. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I have no objections to people who do stand for the pledge.”

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