I am an Army brat. I was born in a hospital on an Army base. My father, stepdad and stepbrother were all in the Army. My family’s service in the military goes back for generations. I respect my family and their fellow veterans immensely.
Having said that, the ongoing and heated debate at the Mullis Center over the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance before senior lunches has grown to be ridiculous and hurtful. Were this the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I would understand the significance of incorporating the pledge into daily activities. But it isn’t. The Mullis Center is a place for the seniors of our community to gather in shared activities and consume a reduced price meal three times a week.
The Mullis Center chose not to recite the pledge prior to its lunches in the hope it would encourage more people to attend. I don’t see what is wrong with promoting inclusivity. There is no reason why the Pledge of Allegiance needs to be said before a meal at a nonprofit organization.
To proclaim that not saying the pledge is an affront to freedom of speech is laughable as the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schools could not make the Pledge of Allegiance mandatory as it goes against the First Amendment.
For those who feel very strongly about it, we suggest saying the Pledge of Allegiance elsewhere prior to the food service. Forcing your free speech upon others is disrespectful to the very nature of the ideology.
Staff at the Mullis Center has stood their ground on this issue because the “pro-pledgers” have been very vocal with angry letters to the editor and heated protests. On the flip side, some of the protesting seniors allege staff threatened them and removed them from the premises. The justification for this, however, was that the seniors were being disruptive and making other people uncomfortable. When asked to cease their disruption or leave, they refused to do so, and the sheriff’s office was called.
Rita Weisbrod resigned from her position as president of the 12-person Mullis Center Operations Committee because the stress of being a “punching bag” for the people who felt so adamant about the pledge was causing her health to decline. And the attacks aren’t even over. Now that the center has finally thrown up its hands and given in to the discontented, the group is still seeking to remove the people who disagree with them.
What a sad day for our community and for the very principles that this nation was founded upon that some of our residents are using bullying tactics to get their way. I am a proud supporter of those who have served in the military, and it does a disservice to our veterans and our country by treating others with anything less than dignity and respect.