‘God Bless America’ banner removed by PJ Slinger

By PJ Slinger

A large banner reading “God Bless America” has been taken down from the Pittsburg Post Office in Kansas, eliciting outrage from many residents of the town who don’t understand the difference between private and government displays of religion.

FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler originally wrote to the post office on June 3, 2015, about the unconstitutionality of the banner on government property. The Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages, and “United States postal regulations prohibit the display of religious materials, other than stamp art, on postal property,” she noted. In addition, the regulations ban all signs other than official notices.
But many residents and others, interviewed by several media outlets, made it clear they were upset with the post office’s decision.

After the banner came down, a local retailer began to distribute “God Bless America” yard signs and banners, and ended up handing out more than 1,000 signs and 400 banners.
“This is a subject that makes people angry,” resident Pittsburg resident Cheryl Brooks told Sarah Okeson of the Joplin Globe. “People have the right to express how they feel.”
“I’m so mad about it I can’t even think straight,” Lane Brant told Okeson. “I just don’t get it. You have freedom of speech.”

“Of course we have no objection to religious slogans and symbols on private property,” responded Dan Barker, co-president of FFRF. “But we think Pittsburg residents would be surprised to know that Irving Berlin, who wrote the song ‘God Bless America’ for a character in a musical, was not himself religious.”

Even U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, weighed in on the removal of the banner, showing her ignorance of the Constitution and the post office’s own regulations. Her statement reads, in part, “I find it sad that our local post office would be forced to bend to the whims of an outside organization, such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Seeking the removal of this patriotic banner is a classic solution in search of a problem and I urge the United States Postal Service to rethink their decision, as this banner means more than just words to our veterans and community members.”

And Janet Butler, a Pittsburg resident, told the Joplin Globe: “It’s ridiculous. If someone doesn’t like it, don’t look at it.”

But would Butler feel the same if there were a sign on a government building that said “Allah Bless America”?

Freedom From Religion Foundation