The National Cemetery blocks the Knights of Columbus from holding a “religious” Memorial Day service

The National Cemetery blocks the Knights of Columbus from holding a “religious” Memorial Day service

Officials at Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg, Virginia, have denied the Knights of Columbus permission to hold its annual Memorial Day service at their cemetery, saying it has a new policy banning “services.” prohibits.

According to the First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group that represents the Knights of Columbus, National Park Service officials allow other events to be held at the cemetery but require that the century-old tradition of the annual Memorial Day Mass be held outside the cemetery grounds .

First Liberty sent a letter of demand this week asking the Park Service to grant its permit to the Catholic Fraternity Service.

“We hope that the National Park Service immediately corrects this error and grants approval,” said John Moran, an attorney and partner at McGuire Woods. “This policy and the decision to prevent the Knights of Columbus from continuing their longstanding religious tradition constitute a blatant violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

According to the letter, the Knights of Columbus have held a Memorial Day Mass in Poplar Grove since the 1960s to honor and pray for the country's fallen soldiers.

But last year, for the first time, the NPS denied the Knights permission to hold the service at the cemetery, citing a new policy that designates “religious services” as prohibited “demonstrations.”

Under the new policy, the group must hold its service outside the cemetery grounds in a designated free speech zone, although other events may be held at the cemetery.

First Liberty states that the new location is “not an adequate replacement” and that denying the group permission is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

“Due to the religious nature of the Knights’ annual service to honor and pray for the country’s fallen soldiers, they were assigned second-class status and literally relegated to the back of the bus. This is exactly the kind of unlawful discrimination and.” The First Amendment was enacted to prevent censorship. This decision was certainly an oversight,” said Roger Byron, senior counsel at First Liberty.

First Liberty has asked park officials to grant approval by May 17, otherwise its “customers intend to take all appropriate steps to protect their rights, including through litigation.”

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