Park district returns donation to atheist blogger

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After a local veterans group pulled its donations to the Morton Grove Park District in response to a park board member's refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, a Naperville teacher and atheist blogger asked his readers for donations to replace the roughly $2,600 in lost funding.

But Hemant Mehta's check for $3,000 is on its way back to him after being refused by Park District officials.

In an email to Mehta, Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson said the Park District board "has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First Amendment dispute."

The email also says Park District officials do not want to appear "sympathetic to," or show a perceived position for or against, "any particular political or religious cause."

"I'm a little shocked," said Mehta, 30, a Naperville resident and teacher who writes a blog called the Friendly Atheist.

"The weird thing is … I kind of feel like I mentioned exactly why I was giving the donation early on, and they said, 'If you want to send a donation, send it to us.'"

Written By: Jonathan Bullington
continue to source article at my.chicagotribune.com

12 COMMENTS

  1. I presume this means that the Morton Grove Park District also refuses donations from church groups and religious organisations on the grounds that “Park District officials do not want to appear “sympathetic to,” or show a perceived position for or against, “any particular political or religious cause.”

    It would be worth checking this.

  2. I’m surprised to be the first to report this. My students were telling me about this all day. Heh… guess I’m “out”!

    Like Macropus I am skeptical that the park district wouldn’t have accepted the money from a church…

    Steve

  3. The email also says Park District officials do not want to appear “sympathetic to,” or show a perceived position for or against, “any particular political or religious cause.”

    Why is a lack of belief in a god considered to be a political or religious cause?

  4. I live in a nearby suburb to Morton Grove, Illinois, and I donated to this fund. Now, whatever good purpose Mehta puts my money to, I still feel cheated. Not that he cheated me, but that the tiny little chickenshit members of the Morton Grove Park District did. I am glad that this was written up in the Chicago Tribune, which is certainly read by a large number of Morton Grove citizens. That way they will know just what kind of people are on that board, and maybe do something about it in the next election. Maybe. And I do agree with the previous posts about what they would do if a church offered them money. Probably drool and stand on their hind legs and snap at it.

  5. The email also says Park District officials do not want to appear “sympathetic to,” or show a perceived position for or against, “any particular political or religious cause.”

    Firstly, since this all started when you treated someone differently for not standing for the pledge, which was a political and/or religious decision, you’ve already proven you take such a position. Secondly, if accepting donations from an atheist isn’t religiously neutral enough for you, you shouldn’t accept money from anyone at all. Thirdly, accepting money without having to do the donor a favour for it doesn’t endorse their views; it just means you want their charitable help for your own operations.

  6. The villain of the piece here – or one of several – is surely the veteran’s association that withdrew funding merely because one (out of how many?) board members did not stand for the pledge. How petty and small-minded can you get, to carry out a spiteful act of revenge against an entire community?

    And I would defend to the death that board member’s freedom to stand or not stand – as I rather imagine the veterans did when they served in the military. Defending freedoms includes people’s freedom to disagree with you.

  7. Ok, wait a second… “Ashta, an attorney who focuses on constitutional law, said placing the pledge on the agenda forces meeting attendees to stand, which is an act of speech. His refusal to stand, he said, is a defense of the public’s right to free speech.”

    That’s the board member for the park, who is making a point about the first amendment…

    “But Hemant Mehta’s check for $3,000 is on its way back to him after being refused by Park District officials.
    In an email to Mehta, Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson said the Park District board “has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.””

    What? Your own board has within it a First Amendment dispute… and the donation money represented by that check is not an issue within that existing dispute!

    Then, there’s this…

    “Anderson said she discussed the donation with park board commissioners who came to her office separately and that a consensus was reached. She said Ashta was the only commissioner she did not talk to about the donation.”

    So, she didn’t even DISCUSS this with the “troublemaker” board member, Ashta? WTF?

    Is Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson TRYING to get sued? Is she TRYING to do her job as poorly as possible?

    W. T. F.

  8. Don’t think being “disrespectful” was the mindset of Ashta. I have remained seated during the pledge; why? recitation seems goofy/archaic/irrelevant. Isn’t it great that he can sit it out if he wishes?!

    Anyhoo, I love Mehta and his blog friendly athiest – go Speed Racer, go ;)

  9. While I find the pledge of allegiance to be an atavistic tradition (and, of course, the “under God” part sticks in my craw); and I object to almost any tradition being made mandatory (it is all the more ridiculous that some minor municipality is invoking the pledge as if they are the US Senate); and while I find it petty, ridiculous, and unprincipled of the veterans to pull their donation over something as silly as some lone board member refusing to stand up (and for constitutional reasons, no less); I just don’t think that this is a big enough deal for Mehta to raise money for. Yes, it is silly to see the donation turned down because it’s from atheists, but, seriously, folks, this money is better spent on any number of more pressing and important causes that don’t involve filling the coffers of some dinky suburb in the greater Chicago area (especially one that already extorts a high property tax from its residents). Frankly, the vets’ money is better spent on something else also.

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