This letter is in response to a petition asking for a reconsideration of the decision to eliminate the practice of saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the Senior Meals Program lunches at the Mullis Center on San Juan Island.
After receiving complaints, we have come to realize that many island seniors are not comfortable with our practice of saying a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the meal. In exploring this matter, we discovered that, as far as we could tell, we have been the only senior center in the area that has had such a practice.
Our decision to eliminate this practice was made to better fulfill our mission to serve ALL seniors on San Juan Island without regard to race, color, creed, religion or national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability. The decision does not have anything to do with religion or patriotism. We certainly do not intend to disrespect veterans or the flag.
The program receives federal funding, as well as funding from nongovernmental sources, that requires we be open to all. Regarding the use of the pledge, the Mullis Center is not a legislative body engaged in the people’s business, nor are we a patriotic organization where the pledge is central to its functions. It’s just lunch. You don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance at a restaurant.
The Operations Committee met in response to the petition and adopted a policy that Senior Meals will include the pledge on special occasions where it is appropriate such as patriotic holidays and any other day when the pledge is appropriate to that occasion. (If we are closed on those days, the pledge will occur at the lunch closest to that date.)
Participation in the pledge is a matter of personal choice and entirely voluntary. No one should feel pressured to stand or to say the pledge.
As we move to offering meals three times a week, we hope you will join us in welcoming ALL seniors on the island to participate. Please bring a friend to lunch and reach out to newcomers who join us!
Chairwoman Mullis Center Operations Committee
San Juan Island