PITTSBURG — A Wisconsin-based company had one “God Bless America” sign removed, only to have 1,500 more start appearing around town.
The Pittsburg Post Office was required to remove a “God Bless America” banner from the side of the building Wednesday, after the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed the banner violated the separation between church and state. The FFRF request was made on behalf of an unnamed Pittsburg resident.
Jake's Fireworks responded by printing 1,200 "God Bless America" yard signs and 300 similar banners. On Friday, the company began handing out signs at 11 a.m. and by 11:45 a.m., the signs were gone.
“Obviously, we're among the majority that didn’t agree with the decision to take the sign down (at the post office),” said Jason Marietta, retail sales director.
Cars stretched over two blocks. Drivers were eventually met with rows of American flags and a digital sign saying "God Bless America" as they pulled into the company’s driveway at east industrial park, where Marietta and other employees directed traffic and greeted the drivers.
“Thanks for doing this,” one driver yelled out. Marietta responded, “Thank you for coming.”
The company had a crew work overnight printing signs, he said. Marietta knew the demand would be high after a Facebook post was shared 1,500 times. He just didn’t imagine it would be this big.
“It’s amazing,” Marietta said.
Local legislators Sen. Jake LaTurner, (R-Pittsburg), and Reps. Adam Lusker, (D-Frontenac), and Chuck Smith, (R-Pittsburg), were among those helping distribute signs.
“This is just the right thing to do,” Smith said. “Isn’t it just awesome that the people of Pittsburg feel this way?”
It took roughly 45 minutes for community members to clear out 1,500 signs, but employees continued to take down contact information to distribute additional signs and banners as they are printed.
Dr. Holly Cranston was lucky enough to get a banner and several yard signs before they ran out.
“I think this is awesome,” Cranston said.
She plans to hang the banner at her Pittsburg business, Cranston Clinic.
“I think most of the people that come to the clinic know I am a Christian,” Cranston said, adding it would not bother her to lose business over her beliefs.
“We have no problem whatsoever with private individuals displaying whatever they want including ‘God Bless America’ on their personal property," said Madeline Ziegler, legal fellow for the FFRF. "That’s exactly the perfect place for religious sentiments.”
The post office plans to restain the discolored wood where the 4 by 12 foot "God Bless America" banner hung on the side of the building. The sign was hung shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 by postal employees, many of whom were veterans.
The banner was displayed for nearly 15 years — it won’t be long before it once again sees the light of day.
“This banner has been proudly displayed in the Pittsburg community for nearly 15 years. Should all the owners (who bought the banner) agree my office would be a fitting place to move it to, I would be honored to hang it outside of my office on Broadway Street,” U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, (R-Kansas) said in an email. “Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this banner has been a patriotic symbol in the Pittsburg community and I would be proud to continue this great tradition.”
Kansas Republican U.S. Senator Jerry Moran agreed.
“It is outrageous that some would aim to divide a community over a banner that has been proudly displayed since Sept. 11, (2001)," he said via email. "I commend the Pittsburg community for rejecting this decision and I stand with them. The Constitution guarantees a right to freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. This banner is not only an expression of faith, but of love for country.
"Expressions of patriotism, faith, and community should be welcome in our society and I have contacted USPS officials to express my concerns about their decision and to request their reconsideration. If the local post office branch is unwilling to display the banner, then I would be proud to hang it at my own office in Pittsburg.”
— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.