Veterans group outraged by ‘this slap in the face’
An evangelical university is removing the Pledge of Allegiance from its Veterans Day chapel service in response to complaints that patriotism has no place in worship.
The “presentation of the colors,” in which a color guard presents or retires an American flag, has also been excised from the schedule.
In a Wednesday email to Seattle Pacific University faculty members who are military veterans, obtained by The College Fix, Chaplain Bo Lim said “some people mentioned to me that they would be uncomfortable doing [the Pledge of Allegiance] within a Christian worship service.”
Lim, also a religion professor at SPU, made clear that this was not the overwhelming response at the university, however.
“For many, the focus of the service would turn into whether we ought or ought not to have the pledge in a Christian worship service,” Lim wrote. “I imagine our community is probably split on this one so I could lean in either direction, but I’ve finally decided to pull it.”
If the point of the chapel service, for which attendance is optional, is “to help our community support military persons within our midst, I think by including the pledge it would be a distraction from this cause,” Lim concluded.
‘An uphill battle’ to get a Veterans Day service in the first place
Student Emma Wendt, who grew up in a military household, told The Fix she disagrees with Lim’s view of these elements in a service.
“The Pledge of Allegiance and Presentation of the Colors was more than an iteration of patriotism, but a means by which everyone would pull together and honor the sacrifices of our community’s deployed spouses, parents, and children,” she said in an email.
According to the schedule of events for next week’s chapel service, three minutes will be dedicated to exploring Veterans Day from the perspective of the United Kingdom.
“Surely if we have time to examine the United Kingdom’s perspective of this holiday,” said Wendt, “we have time to allow opportunity for those willing to say the Pledge of Allegiance.”
On its Facebook page, SPU’s Military and Veteran Support Club said it was initially asked to “collaborate” with University Ministries on “the first Veterans Day Chapel in a long time.” Sarah Martin, president of the group, wrote that it was “an uphill battle to get to this point” at SPU, which has a pacifist streak.
But the club is incensed by the administration’s flip-flop on the honorific elements of the service. Martin asked students to “partner with us and speak out against this slap in the face of every soldier who has fought, sacrificed, and even died for our freedoms, which are represented by that flag.”
She said veterans have told her that “their friends did not die for our country so that Americans could be ashamed of or made uncomfortable by their own flag.” The post includes contact information for University Ministries.
Lim recognized that some students may feel left out of the service without the Pledge or presentation of colors.
“I still want student participation in the service, so I’ve included a student testimony,” he wrote in the email to veterans among the faculty.
For those who want to see signs of America, Lim finished, “FYI there are flags in the sanctuary and Rod [Stiling, SPU history professor,] said that he will reference both the flag and the pledge in his homily.”
Though Lim’s email signature describes him as “university chaplain,” he and the chaplain position have been removed entirely from the Campus Ministries staff page within the past two weeks. A version of the page cached Oct. 23 still includes Lim as chaplain.
Same official who led prayer vigil after Ferguson non-indictment
Lim has a history of claiming to speak for the SPU community.
A year ago, following the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Lim emailed the student body.
“Many in our country, including those on our campus, experience [sic] grief, outrage, bewilderment, fear, and disillusionment after hearing the grand jury decision,” Lim wrote. He invited students, faculty and staff to a candlelight vigil in SPU’s Martin Square.
Lim and University Ministries did not respond to Fix requests for comment.
SPU, which is affiliated with the Free Methodist denomination but has a contingent of students and faculty from pacifist traditions, has a history of internal fights over displays of patriotism.
The vice president of the student government declined to allow a vote on a proposal to offer a voluntary flag salute at the start of student senate meetings in the 2001-2002 school year, The Falcon reported then.
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