Today is Memorial Day. The purpose behind this is to remember those who have died while serving in the armed forces. There are several accounts regarding the history of this holiday, as several cities and towns lay claim to its origins. As well, there are other divisions along the lines of gender, race and – of course – whether or not you were living in the north or the south during and after the civil war. In fact, you can find a thoroughly fleshed out article on the history of Memorial Day on Wikipedia.
Unbelievers Not Included…?
I chose my opening quote very deliberately. It was uttered by Sgt. Justin Griffith, a friend, solider and one of the champions for equality within a very religiously biased US Armed Services and the founder of Rock Beyond Belief. Justin, and those like him, have been fighting for years for non-believing soldiers to be recognized among not only the Brass, not just their fellow service men and women, but also by the general public. It’s been an uphill battle, considering that Memorial Day is, according to the US Government, a religious holiday.
In 1950, Congress approved a joint resolution (36 U.S.C. 116) that requests the President to issue a “proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.”
This code was updated on May 26, 2000 (65 Fed. Reg. 34907), and specifically reads the following regarding Memorial Day:
(a) Designation. – The last Monday in May is Memorial Day.
(b) Proclamation. – The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation –
(1) calling on the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace;
(2) designating a period of time on Memorial Day during which the people may unite in prayer for a permanent peace;
(3) calling on the people of the United States to unite in prayer at that time; and
(4) calling on the media to join in observing Memorial Day and the period of prayer.
All Or None…
In May of 2000, President Bill Clinton issued a memorandum titled “National Moment of Remembrance.” This memorandum asked for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.” This I have no problem with, whatsoever. It is non-sectarian and does not require anything other than an individual choose whatever they deem appropriate to remember our fallen soldiers. Memorial Day should be a day commemorating the memory of ALL of those who have died in our nation’s service, including soldiers and service members who were not part of a church or any other religious organization.
So, in 1950 the Congress approves a resolution asking the President to make an official proclamation that includes prayer. In the middle of the year 2000, Bill Clinton issues a memorandum stating that a moment of remembrance and respect is more appropriate. By the end of the year 2000, the 106th Congress managed to bastardize Clinton’s memorandum by including it in 36 USC 116 by passing Public Law 579.106. Thus, the part of 36 USC that was designated to address memorial day was now known as “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” but still includes the original proclamation from 1950, calling for the President to ask for the prayers of the entirety of the United States citizenry, whether or not they believe in God.
Separate, Not Equal…
I feel like we’ve been hoodwinked. I also realize that this is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. Clinton’s idea of a non-sectarian Memorial Day was exemplary, but the “We’re a Christian Nation” crowd on Capital Hill made sure that the official Memorial Day Presidential Proclamation remains unchanged – regardless of whose party has command of the Oval Office. Here’s the one from George Bush:
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 29, 2006, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I also ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3 p.m., local time, on Memorial Day.”
And here’s the one from Barack Obama:
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 28, 2012, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I also ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.”
See the difference? Of course you don’t, because there is none…
The observance of Memorial day should reflect the principles behind Clinton’s non-sectarian memorandum. America has never been a Christian nation and the fact that our soldiers have died to protect the Constitution, a document which demands the separation of church and state, is a travesty to me. Memorial Day should serve as a reminder that the United States was founded on freedom and liberty, and it is because of these principles that we fight so ardently to protect our status as a free nation.
The United States was not founded on Christian or Biblical principles and the founding fathers were not all Christians. We are and must remain, at all costs, a free nation and that wall of separation must be defended. As Americans, we must continue to uphold the principles of individual freedom that our country was founded upon and on this day, remember those who have lost their lives to protect those freedoms.