National Chaplain's Message
Harvey H. Klee
National Chaplain of the American Legion
This month we celebrate the birth of our country rising like the Phoenix in Greek mythology on July 4, 1776, when our founders declared their independence from Great Britain. There were 56 signers to the Declaration of Independence coming from many walks of life: ministers, lawyers, merchants, doctors and educators. What interested me was their religious affiliation.
The predominant denomination represented was Episcopalian/Anglican at about 57 percent. This is to be expected because of the strong Church of England influence in the colonies. The next largest groups were Congregationalist and Presbyterian at approximately 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively. There were two Quakers, two Unitarians or Universalists and one Roman Catholic.
Following our Independence, Articles of Confederation were adopted as an interim measure to provide a structure for national governance in the new country. The real work lied ahead in adopting a Constitution – and that didn't go too well until Benjamin Franklin spoke up in Convention on 1787. I'll paraphrase his remarks:
“We've tried everything and our disagreements are taking us nowhere fast. We've returned to ancient history for models of government and examined the different forms of Republics – that no longer exist as they were filled with the seeds of their own destruction. We've viewed modern states throughout Europe but no Constitution would be suitable for our circumstance. We are groping in the dark to find political truth.
“We haven't once thought of calling upon the Creator of us all to illuminate our understandings. When we were faced with imminent danger in our war against Great Britain, we never ceased our daily prayers in this very room for Divine Protection. Our prayers were heard and graciously answered. All of us have observed frequent instances of Superintending providence in our favor.
“Have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
“The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. Is it probable an empire can rise without His aid? In the sacred writings we have been assured that 'except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.' Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partisan interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages.
“And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
“And so I move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings upon our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”
The motion passed overwhelmingly and the rest is history. Perhaps this story will impress upon all Legionnaires the importance and necessity of prayer before all business meetings.
Harvey H. Klee
National Chaplain 2016-2017
National Chaplain's June Message
It all started in the spirit in which it was intended. In 1885, a schoolteacher arranged for his pupils to observe June 14 as “Flag Birthday.” That was on the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes. Others followed. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established by Proclamation Flag Day. However, it wasn't until 1949 that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.
Forty years later in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled burning the national flag was constitutionally protected and effectively outlawed laws against it in 48 of the 50 states! (Texas vs Johnson).
At a time in our lives when it seems our cherished traditions and values once constitutionally protected and assured are being whittled away day after day, what can patriotic Americans do to show honor and respect for our national flag?
This Flag Day we can show our love for the American flag by offering to appear at local schools and speak on flag history to overcome the damage inflicted by the court's decision. The symbolic value of the American flag is not the same today as it was yesterday. Events during the last seven decades has altered the country's image in the eyes of numerous Americans. And some now have difficulty understanding the message that the flag conveyed to their parents and grandparents – whether born abroad and naturalized or native born.
Send out news releases announcing retirement ceremonies for unserviceable flags. Invite other veteran and civic organizations to participate in one big corroborative effort. Invite the local Boy Scout Troop to participate. Get local pastors involved. Arrange for guest speakers (but keep it short). Try getting members of the local high school band to appear – you might even throw in a BBQ! Run a contest: “What the American flag means to me” with prizes to the top three winners.
Contact your local radio and/or TV station to set up an interview concerning all the events being planned and...wear a flag pin! Relate what raising the flag at Iwo Jima meant to the men who did so and the cost in lives of those involved in that battle. Talk about the five U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman raising the United States flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Talk about what the flag means to you. Encourage news reporters to interview at random local folk asking them what the American flag means to them.
This Flag Day, as you stand proudly at attention to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and come to that portion that claims “One nation under God,” realize its importance. It defines the definitive character of the American way of life. Once “under God” we define what we mean by “liberty and justice for all.”
Secularist John D. Steinrucker has stated in an American Thinker article, “Religious faith has made possible the advancement of Western civilization. That is, the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition.” He went on to add, “do we secularists not benefit out of all proportion from a morally responsible society? An orderly society is dependent on a generally accepted morality. There can be no such morality without religion.”
Even secular humanists Will and Ariel Durant agree: “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”
“One nation under God” does not limit the United States to one nation under a particular denomination or a particular religion. But it does distinctively set the record straight that we are a nation under God — and a higher rule of law — not a nation in which the state or any man is supreme. That's what the American flag means to me.
Harvey H. Klee
National Chaplain 2016-2017