Submitted by Katherine Morningstar-Simon
It’s not about lunch. It’s about community. Early this month the Mullis Center Operations Committee announced we would no longer be standing for the prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance at lunch. The folks at the table where I sit were aghast. We were told the goal was to make the lunch acceptable to more people, especially younger people.
I circulated a petition asking the committee to reconsider, which was signed by a supermajority of attendees. The only dissenting person said, “We have separation of church and state.” I sent a copy of the petition to each member of The Operations Committee with a letter asking that the pledge be reinstated.
We proposed to do the pledge at 11:45 a.m. so that anyone offended could come later than that. One of our members (he is one of our veterans), invited those who so wished to stand for the pledge. The majority of us could hardly get to our feet fast enough. He and another vet were “spoken to” and left. He was petitioned by members to return.
The operations committee apparently did reconsider as it was next announced the pledge would be reinstated on a list of specific national holidays. Another member stood and led the pledge. The next lunch I attended the flag had been removed and an announcement was made that the flag had been put in the craft room and that anyone who wanted to say the pledge of allegiance go in there and say it, individually or as a group. The administration said they considered this a win-win for everyone. I considered it adding insult to injury. I started to circulate copies of the original petition and was told that if I did they would come around and remove them. I was invited into the office of the director of the San Juan County Senior Services Manager and given a copy of the rules for information and signage policy.
I wanted to hand out copies of the petition I had previously circulated. I was told that if I did they would come around behind me and remove them. I was invited to come to the office of the San Juan Senior Services Manager and was given a copy of their signage rules, which read “All postings and signage need to be approved by the center manager. Content should be appropriate to the Mullis Center. For-profit business advertising or political promotions are not allowed.” I’m not sure which part I violated.
Last week I sat at a table with a Mullis Center member wearing a Vladimir Putin tee shirt. He was not given a copy of the rules, and that is as it should be. In my country, we have the right to free speech, including T-shirts. Our principles guarantee that and I am proud to be from a country in which such a shirt could be manufactured, sold, bought and worn. It wouldn’t happen in Russia.