Feds call Catholic Mass a 'demonstration,' ban it from national cemetery

 May 21, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

The federal government is being taken to court for calling a Catholic Mass a "demonstration" and banning it from a national cemetery on Memorial Day.

The fight is over the request from the Knights of Columbus to hold a Memorial Day event in Poplar Grove National Cemetery as they have since the 1960s.

The National Park Service refused permission, insisting that the events planned by the community service organization constituted a "demonstration."

The status now is that First Liberty Institute and the law team at McGuireWoods have filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the NPS in Petersburg, Virginia, that would allow the event to move forward.

"The policy and the decision blocking the Knights of Columbus from continuing their long-standing religious tradition is a blatant violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," said John Moran, partner at McGuireWoods. "We urge the court to grant our restraining order and allow the Knights to hold their service this Memorial Day."

Roger Byron, of First Liberty, said, "The National Park Service is way out of line. This is the kind of unlawful discrimination and censorship RFRA and the First Amendment were enacted to prevent. Hopefully, the court will grant the Knights the relief they need to keep this honorable tradition alive."

The lawyers explained, "One long-standing way the Knights have lived out their faith and their patriotism is by holding Memorial Day Masses to honor and pray for the nation’s fallen soldiers. Until last year, the Knights had always held a Memorial Day Mass within the Poplar Grove National Cemetery, and the Mass (or a prayer service when a priest was not available) had been celebrated there every year without incident since at least the 1960s.

"But last year, for the first time, the NPS denied the Knights a permit to hold the service in the cemetery, citing a new policy that designates 'religious services' as prohibited 'demonstrations.' Under the new policy, the Knights longstanding memorial service now must be held somewhere outside the cemetery grounds even though other events may be held in the cemetery."

The legal filing states, "The case for preliminary relief is simple: The Knights are likely to succeed on their claims that defendants’ application of their policies to bar the Knights from conducting a 'religious service' in the National Cemetery—as they had previously done for generations—violates their right to religious free exercise under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The court should therefore grant the motion and enter an immediate temporary restraining order or issue a preliminary injunction allowing the Knights to continue their decades-long tradition of hosting a Memorial Day Mass inside the Poplar Grove National Cemetery."

The Knights had tried to resolve the dispute without resorting to a court action.

WND reported when the lawyers for the Knights wrote to the NPS asking for the dispute to be resolved in favor of the constitutional freedoms.

The sudden change came about under the Joe Biden administration, which abruptly imposed a ban on what its officials consider "religious."

The initial letter making the request for a resolution said, "The NPS’s prohibition of the Knights’ Memorial Day service due to its religious nature is not merely unlawful content-based discrimination on speech—it is textbook viewpoint discrimination, which is per se unconstitutional."

The new motion asking for court intervention points out that the NPS insists that the memorial event be held in a small, designated "First Amendment" zone.

"By prohibiting the Knights from exercising their religious convictions and expressing their patriotism by praying for and honoring the fallen through a Catholic mass held inside the cemetery, NPS is misapplying its own regulations, unlawfully infringing on the Knights’ First Amendment rights and violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And this treatment is causing irreparable harm to the Knights and those who wish to participate in their annual Memorial Day Mass," the brief supporting the request states.

Latest News

© 2024 - Patriot News Alerts