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Memorial Day: They Died So We Could Serve God Freely

Posted on Sunday, May 26, 2024
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by David P. Deavel
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National Cemetery Flag. American flag on a grave at the National Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, placed there for Memorial Day.

Last summer, video of an interview with 100-year-old Marine veteran Carl Dekle went viral. The Silver Star recipient, who survived the Battle of Guadalcanal, wept as he described how, though he’d fight for this country again, this country has become unrecognizable in so many ways: “The things we did and the things we fought for and the boys that died for it, it’s all gone down the drain.”

The reason the video went viral was that so many people recognize that sense of loss in this country. Dekle’s sentiments were probably in a number of people’s minds again this week when the National Park Service (NPS) denied the Catholic Knights of Columbus a permit to celebrate a Mass on Memorial Day at the Poplar Grove National Cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia, for the second year in a row. Though the decision was overturned, it was a reminder that true liberty, especially the freedom to serve God according to one’s conscience, is a fragile thing. The great western, Christian, and American understanding of freedom is that it is not just about doing what we want. It is about doing what we want under God and the natural law. More importantly, it is about doing what we ought.

Like the Obama Administration before it, perhaps more so, the Biden Administration has talked a smooth game about religion. The media have persistently depicted old Joe with rosary beads wrapped around his fingers as he looks meditatively from church pews. Biden has himself spoken about his faith as something meaningful to him. But as with the Obama Administration, his term has seen both low-level pushing of religion to the side and the prioritization of the new religions of gender and sexuality take preference over everything. 

The NPS fiasco is reminiscent of the Obama Administration’s July 2011 Veterans’ Affairs attempt to ban the name of Jesus Christ during funerals at Houston National Cemetery and the September 2011 guidelines given by the Army to Walter Reed Medical Center which forbade religious items, including Bibles and religious reading material, from being given away or even used during visits of patients. While in both cases, protests of the policies brought them to an end, it was shocking that such policies would even be proposed. In the case of the National Park Service and the Knights of Columbus, it was sadly necessary that a lawsuit be filed in order to continue an annual event that had happened without incident for sixty years before 2023.

It was in 2023 that the NPS first refused a permit to the Knights, citing 1986 regulations banning any “demonstration” in the park, which could include a “vigil or religious service” said to be “reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers.” This seems likely to be aimed at mass (no pun intended) events—not celebration of the Catholic Mass. And indeed, the Knights were allowed to continue their tradition for another 36 years before being told it was in violation of these regulations. And when the Knights referred the National Park Service to a similar permit they were issuing for a Mass in Georgia, officials not only didn’t back down, but revoked that permit as well. This past Thursday, the Knights and the NPS were scheduled to appear before a judge, but the NPS finally backed down.

It is this sort of low-level persecution that is both unnecessary and obnoxious. It is this that no doubt raises the hackles of veterans such as Carl Dekle. But the more serious aspects of the attacks on religious freedom are much more worrying. As with the Obama Administration, it is in the realm of healthcare—abortion and the gender ideology that has become a kind of dogmatic religion itself—that the real threats are found.

Last month, The Conscience Project’s Andrea Picciotti-Bayer wrote of new rules issued by nine different executive branch agencies concerning funding under Title X of the Public Health Services Act. She noted that while the announcement claimed that their goal was “further advancing President Biden’s call for religious freedom and equity for all,” the reality is that they attack the way in which religious freedom operates by providing a “religion gag order.” By this, she means that “the new rules require that faith-based groups separate in time or location any privately-funded explicitly religious activities from activities supported with direct federal financial assistance.” As Picciotti-Bayer observes, those who drafted this rule “are either unaware or don’t care that religion is what inspires these organizations to care for their neighbors in the first place. Also, for many of these entities, expressions of faith are inseparable from the services they provide.”

Like the absurd Obama-era rules about religious literature being used in a hospital, this is a rule that demands that religious people leave their religion behind when doing anything on the government dime. Care for the spirit and soul is to be strictly segregated from care of the body. It doesn’t make any sense, especially since so much of the American healthcare scene has been populated by people and institutions who do what they do because they are obeying God.

There are other threats. Critics of the new revision of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act argue that by adopting gender identity rather than biological sex, it will end up forcing faithful people in healthcare to violate their consciences with regard to transgender “affirmation” treatments. There is no doubt that is true—the Human Rights Campaign complains that there is any wiggle room in the revision for religious freedom but interprets the bill as meaning that it will be impermissible to deny cross-sex hormones to those who are attempting to “transition.” This will no doubt be a continuing battle.

This Memorial Day, we will commemorate those who died in the defense of this country. So that their deaths were not in vain, we need to recommit to the defense of the rights of conscience. As James Madison explained concerning the notion of a right, it “is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.” That means not only public worship—even on government property—but also the service of God as Americans serve others body and soul. If men and women can do this without interference or persecution from their government, our country will certainly not have gone down the drain. Instead, we will be filling our reserves.

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on X (Twitter) @davidpdeavel.

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Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
20 days ago

Praise for David Deavel for writing this article. This topic involves the soul and spirit of what the United States of America stands for – what it stands for with people of good character, who believe in the principles of Faith , Family and Freedom. Those of us who believe in the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, we are the people who have the courage, the sense of honor, the integrity to defend the truth ,to defend Liberty.

Vena
Vena
18 days ago

Military traditions have been cut. The stories must be told. The kids won’t learn about our nation. The struggles, disappointments, the WINS. The sacrifice they chose when our men joined to protect Her. Under Biden, nobody wants to fight for him.Traditions tells the story.

David Millikan
David Millikan
19 days ago

The Communist in Alaska Ban the U.S. Flag in a National Park there with Dictator Beijing bidens blessing. This is how the democrats show support for the United States of America and our Military.

Mark
Mark
19 days ago

If that hospital ban truly goes through then let it be enforced it is for All faiths and religions just not Bible faith. Barring Religious freedoms is actually breaking the Constitutional law of our liberty to exercise freely

Serious
Serious
19 days ago

Young generations lack personal responsibility, courage and sprit to serve others. USA needs to restore mandatory military service training for all upcoming young people.

Kim
Kim
20 days ago

I hope you don’t mean to close the door on the millions of us patriotic conservatives who do not have religion in our lives. Not going to church on Sunday doesn’t make me less patriotic, nor should you deem it so. But when AMAC writers post these articles, we feel kind of shunted off the to the side, as if we didn’t matter and are lesser human beings than the believers. I resent being trivialized in such a manner! The Republican party is supposed to be the Big Tent party, after all.

Instead of creating this annual drama, why not allow services in National Parks from any major religion recognized by the federal government? I’d say that’s closer to the spirit of the law than excluding every group with a religious affiliation.

And, by the way, any doctor (or florist or baker) should never be compelled to perform any service that contradicts that person’s convictions. Trump should make it a law when he’s president.

Howard
Howard
20 days ago

Good morning on this Memorial Day,
FYI.
I am no longer able to share these articles, the share button has worked until recently.
Anyone able to help me?
Thanks.
They gave up their todays so we can have a tomorrow.

Douglas Arnold
Douglas Arnold
20 days ago

This breaks my heart. The decline in our Christian Western society lays not on the leaders we elect but the voters that put them in that position. And more so on the Church that has abandoned the command of JESUS himself to go, therefore and make Desciples and teach them everything JESUS taught us., The good news, the gospel of JESUS the CHRIST, HE is our only hope. I look at the world through the lens of GODs word. We need to trust and obey what GOD has entrusted us with. We as a nation will be judged for our sins. That is even more imperative the We boldly go and make deciples. IN JESUS name.

Charles
Charles
20 days ago

The Bill of Rights weren’t written for the people’s rights. Our Founders recognized these Rights as God given and therefore wrote the Bill of Rights to limit the government from interfering with or putting limitations on these Rights.We The People need to reiterate this fact to our supposedly elected representatives and if necessary re-education them on the reasons why we sought and ultimately fought fir our independence from British rule. One of these reasons being taxation without representation and another being Freedom Of Religion not freedom from religion, however if one chooses to be an atheist or an agnostic they are free do so but not free to limit my rights.

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