On Wednesday the United States Post Office in Pittsburg was forced to remove a sign reading “God Bless America” from the side of the building by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
We are told that a complaint from one local person to the Madison, Wisconsin-based group prompted the removal.
We understand the legal basis of this, and agree that the separation of church and state is a fundamental principle of the American experiment.
However, this sign, which had been placed by veterans working at the post office in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, had been quietly hanging from the side of the building for nearly 15 years without causing controversy.
While a technical violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, it’s hard to see what harm was caused.
The phrase “God Bless America” is the first line of a patriotic song which is sung at baseball games all over the nation every summer. It is generic, it does not refer merely to the Christian god, but could be interpreted — and has been by the Supreme Court — to refer generically to any deity.
It would seem clear then, that someone found offense in something innocuous and proceeded to call in a group which is professionally offended.
However, it would seem the law of unintended consequences applies, and both Jayhawk Signs, which is selling large “God Bless America” banners at a discount, and Jake’s Fireworks, which is giving signs away for free, have stepped up to make sure there are plenty of banners in town. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, (R-Kansas), has said — if the original purchasers agree — she will hang it at her Pittsburg office.
We note with some amusement that in forcing one sign to come down, the offended party will have plenty of opportunities to see it elsewhere.
We also note with some satisfaction, that a town which has been sharply divided over a school bond issue, has found common ground over patriotism.