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Morton Grove Park District Returns Atheist's Check

An atheist group had raised the money in support of a park district commissioner who refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. The park district said it didn't want to get in the middle of that dispute.


The Morton Grove Park District has declined a $3,000 donation from the publisher of the FriendlyAtheist.com blog and other atheist donors, according to TribLocal. 

Hemant Mehta, the atheist blogger, put out a call to his readers for donations in support of Morton Grove Park District Commissioner Dan Ashta, who took office in April, and who refuses to stand or recite during the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited at all park district board meetings.

The Morton Grove American Legion withdrew its customary $2,600 donation in support of park district programming because members were disappointed at Ashta's refusal to at least stand while the pledge is recited.

Earlier: Atheist Raises Funds, Which American Legion Yanked, For Morton Grove Park District

In the latest development, Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson said board members, not including Ashta, expressed the view that Mehta's donation was not intended for general park district programming, according to TribLocal, and consequently the district is going to return his check.

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Tony Hofeld December 03, 2013 at 09:48 AM
I would like to know the precise limitations/requirements that would have governed the use of the rejected contribution. Absent any limitations/requirements that are contrary to the Park District's mission and purpose and/or violate any applicable laws, an arbitrary refusal to accept the contribution would cause an unnecessary increase in the Park District portion of each Morton Grove taxpayer's real estate tax bill.
Carol December 03, 2013 at 10:27 AM
I, for one, am glad to hear about your action. The tax dollars to homeowners would be so so minimal that no one would even notice. More importantly is why does an elected official refuse to stand &/or recite the Pledge? Why did he than run for office? If he does not believe in America than what is he doing here? Why become a board member in a country you do not believe in? I would recommend that a attachment be added that ALL elected officials MUST stand and recite THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. Pass this ASAP!
Shawn December 03, 2013 at 12:27 PM
It doesn't matter why. He has every right to not stand for the pledge. How does not standing for the flag equate to not believing in America? If you want everyone to stand, do you also want the pledge to be reverted back to its original state by taking "under God" out of it?
Lilly December 03, 2013 at 02:44 PM
I agree with Shawn. This is America and that is why HE & ALL have every right NOT to stand. Being an Atheist does not mean not believing in America. If he or any chooses not to believe in God, or any higher power, that is his right as an American. I am not an Atheist, but I do believe in our freedom. I feel that returning the funds that have been donated regardless of who has donated it, It's the actions of the district that is making this into something that is so taken out of content. The efforts that have been made to call out for donations, that I must remind you are given by people regardless of race, color and RELIGION. Again, I am not an Atheist, but I am an AMERICAN who lives in Morton Grove and strongly and proudly believes in my and every one's rights & freedoms to be able to call ourselves AMERICANS! ! Please reconsider. This is where it begins, showing and making examples to our future. Coming together, caring, sharing as a community. Help thy neighbor. .. donations are meant to be taken as a token of caring and giving to those in NEED. What in the world are you thinking? ........
PD December 03, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Well said Lilly... I didn't realize that approval of ones religious beliefs were needed in order to donate (substantially) to an organization which is in place to serve the entire COMMUNITY... This whole thing has become a big circus, and who suffers?? The public and program participants who these funds were supposed to help. Shame on the district. Not to mention that the trib local article stated that the board (but not all members apparently) seemed to vote / reach a 'consensus' behind closed doors on what to do with the donation. Whether these meetings were held separately as it stated & without any communication between commissioners (which i find somewhat hard to believe that they hadn't spoken to each other at all about the topic), or not, this action seems dangerously close to a violation of the Open Meetings Act... Maybe PATCH could look into this????? I would like to hear a more thorough response from the park district on that 'board consensus' and what justification / policies they have in place to warrant rejecting thousands of dollars that could have been put to use in our parks & enrich recreation opportunities for the community.
Beyond Belief December 03, 2013 at 08:39 PM
It is worth investigating how this kind of discriminatory, financially negligent decision about community funds can be made outside of a public meeting. The Legion had the chance to be Adults and continue their donation while speaking their mind about Ashta's action. Strike one. The council had the chance to stand in public defense of Ashta's rights, and against public attempts to extort behavior from elected officials. Hey chose silence and blame. strike 2. Then, given the chance to demonstrate that the city is willing to accept "no-strings-attached" funds from any givers, they chose to petulantly continue their protest against anyone who dares suggest that a mandatory loyalty oath is inappropriate, something a dictatorship would do. Strike 3. Mr. Ashta, thank you for standing (sitting) on principle.
Jerry Cichon December 03, 2013 at 11:17 PM
The park district did the right thing by not accepting money that was donated as a political/religious (or lack thereof) statement. Why hasn't Mr. Mehta (and others) donated before? The American Legion nor the park district has injected religion into this. The American Legion based their protest on the disrespect given to the American Flag that represents a country that has provided you the right to free speech (especially the sacrifices made by those that have served this country proudly in uniform). Not standing doesn't validate your right to free speech. Not sitting doesn't validate your right to free speech. Standing shows respect - respect for a country that provides you the right to free speech. Not stating the pledge validates your right to free speech.
Shawn December 08, 2013 at 09:48 AM
The money wasn't donated as a statement of any kind. It was simply people coming together to stand up for a man who was exercising his right to free speech. It was also to ensure that the people of Morton Grove wasn't punished because of the shortsightedness of the Legion. Mr. Ashta hasn't(to my knowledge) stated why exactly he doesn't stand for the pledge. "The American Legion based their protest on the disrespect given to the American Flag that represents a country that has provided you the right to free speech" That you don't understand the irony in that statement speaks volumes about the blinders you have comfortably attached to your head. You can say that standing shows respect, but that's what is great about this country, everyone has a right to their opinion, and the whole of a village shouldn't be punished for that opinion.

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