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Religious Tests for Library Supporters

Now that the new year is approaching I considered writing a “year in review” post, but nothing exciting happened this year that I could remember. I could have just made up stuff, but then I ran across a Library Link of the Day about a library in Morton Grove, IL refusing a donation from someone and it was too good to pass up.

There’s not much information in the article, but it’s enough to show that there are some library board members in Illinois who don’t believe in a little thing called freedom.

An American Legion Post stopped giving money to the park district after a park district board member refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. That’s understandable, because there’s absolutely nothing the American government is doing at the moment that would merit even the slightest protest, and patriotism is best defined by whether someone recites a pledge.

I didn’t know much about the American Legion, so I looked up their mission page. Supposedly it’s a “nonpartisan, not-for-profit” organization devoted to “mutual helpfulness.” It also gives money for local sports to educate “young people about the importance of sportsmanship, citizenship and fitness.”

What the young people should learn from this episode is that the American Legion is more concerned with one park board member remaining seated than their citizenship or fitness, because getting self-righteously offended at the slightest provocation is the new American way, and the American Legion wouldn’t want to go against the American way.

It’s not clear how this is related, but after the Legion pulled funding from the park board, a local teacher decided to raise money for the library, because, um, kids who wouldn’t be playing sports might want to read or something.

So he raised and donated $3000 to the library, but the library board voted 5-2 not to accept the donation. The reason? He’s an atheist! And he contributes to a blog called the Friendly Atheist! Oh, no!

One deluded board member called the blog a “hate group,” proving he doesn’t know what hate groups are really like. (Hint: they don’t call themselves “friendly” anything.) He apparently defines “hate group” as “people who disagree with me.”

The Morton Grove library board has decided to institute a religious test for donations, because of course money coming from atheists is dirty atheist money, and to accept it might put a curse of the devil on the library, or whatever people like that think.

That kind of goes against both American and library values, but who cares about freedom of religion when there are dirty atheists trying to donate money to the library? Only 2 people out of 7 on the Morton Grove library board, that’s who.

The next logical course for the intolerant bigots on the library board who want to discriminate against harmless groups is to enact new rules from the library barring atheists from getting library cards.

There could be a statement on the library card application form that potential patrons would have to check: “Do you swear to God that you are not an atheist?”

Maybe the religious test could be stricter and allow practitioners of only certain religions to get cards. Christians, definitely. Jews, maybe, if they could prove they were religious Jews. Muslims, if they proved they weren’t terrorists. Buddhists, no, they’re basically atheists. Hindus, well, maybe if they could explain how they’re theists under the Morton Grove guidelines. And not in foreign accents, because the Morton Grove library board doesn’t like things it can’t understand.

Anyway, so much for freedom of religion with the Morton Grove library board. They don’t like that kind of freedom. That thing about libraries being for everybody? Well, maybe everybody can use them, at least until the religious tests are enacted, but everybody certainly isn’t allowed to support them.

And the guy who tried to give money to the library? Here’s what he has to say in a blog post about the issue:

Because the money was always intended to help the people of Morton Grove, I will be sending a check to the Niles Township Food Pantry, which helps people who need food and serves the Morton Grove community (among others).

The “hate group” atheist is giving to the poor. The library board is acting like a bunch of intolerant bigots refusing money for a public library for religious reasons. That’s a nice lesson for the end of the year.

Were I on the library board, my response would have been, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” and then I would have considered the teacher a good Samaritan and accepted the donation.

And then I would have said Happy New Year, which I’m saying to you now.

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Comments

  1. Dan says:

    “Self-righteously offended” is the best description I’ve ever heard for 21st Century America.

  2. rodrigo says:

    Also, donations from agnostics should be held in escrow until that time a definitive judgement can be made.

  3. Jamie says:

    The teacher first tried to donate the money to the Morton Grove Park District as a direct replacement for the American Legion money. The PD turned it down because it didn’t want to get in the middle of a First Amendment arguement. So the library was the teacher’s second choice.

  4. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    If they have a big enough budget that they can turn down money from anywhere, they can feel free to send it to me. I can barely afford to keep my patrons in Harlequin Romances and Patterson novels.

  5. ebwhite says:

    Unrelated but I counldn’t find your email address: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/consumer/self-service-libraries-to-allow-night-time-checkouts-1.1640032

    This week in news: librarians are totally redundant woo hoo!

  6. Ella says:

    I’m a Quaker. I will take this atheist’s money, launder it in my aura of faith, and then donate it to Morton Grove so they can accept it without worrying about the curse that happens when any atheist handles God’s money (it says “In God We Trust” all over it, amirite?).

  7. democommie says:

    I’m another dirty atheist. I wrote a note to the DGAmLegion and wouldn’t you know it, no reply. I think I was pretty rude, but I get that way with idiots who don’t understand that FREEDOM doesn’t mean for them only.

  8. C. Wrott says:

    Bravo, author. Well spoken.
    And a very happy new year to you, as well.

  9. Joneser says:

    And this is the library which hosts Fiction-L. Maybe the Board will try to regulate what sorts of books are talked about there.

  10. Libertardis says:

    Fundies are hilarious.

  11. Ann says:

    It is rude not to stand for the pledge, especially for those who put their lives on the line to defend our country. I can see how the Legion would be very offended. Maybe people have the right to not stand, but they have to understand how much it offends others. If you live in the United States, why wouldn’t you stand to show respect for your country and to those who sacrificed to protect it?

    • MK Fowee says:

      Some peoples religious beliefs specify that they cannot “pledge” themselves to anyone but their god, and some people just don’t believe in pledging themselves to a country. There are plenty of ways to show respect for one’s country, such as honoring each person’s individual freedom of choice. That freedom is what people actually died for, not a bunch of words.

  12. democommie says:

    “It is rude not to stand for the pledge, especially for those who put their lives on the line to defend our country.”

    Really?

    I served my country for 4 years at the height of the Vietnam War. I think it’s incredibly rude (never mind that it’s unconstitutional) to require anyone to do anything to make you or anyone else feel like you’re special. Stand for the pledge all you want, I’ll support you in that. Don’t insist that anyone else needs to unless you think that loyalty oaths are required to be a citizen of the U.S.–here’s a hint, they are not. And, fwiw, I distrust those who pray loudly or declare their undying patriotism. They’re usually the last person I’d want sharing my foxhole.

  13. Jessica says:

    Being Catholic, I could have just taken the money to my local priest, had it blessed and bought some really great books with it (haha!!). Doing something good for you fellow man/woman/community should not be judged based on religious beliefs. I am sure other libraries would have gladly taken the money.