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The Knights of Columbus service each year is small, and not a "demonstration" as described by the Park Service. Photo: Petersburg KoC

Knights of Columbus denied permit to hold Memorial Day service in National Park


[UPDATE:] The National Park service has reversed its decision and will now allow the Knights of Columbus to hold a service at a cemetery. Original story below.

The Knights of Columbus, a venerable religious and civic organization found in countless communities across America, is being denied a permit to hold a mass in a national cemetery.

The organization asked a federal court for a restraining order against the National Park Service on Tuesday to allow it to proceed with the 60-year-old tradition at the Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia.

“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,” contends John Moran, partner at McGuireWoods LLP in Washington, D.C.

“We urge the court to grant our restraining order and allow the Knights to hold their service this Memorial Day,” he said.

Superintendent of the Petersburg National Battlefield, Alexa Viets, did not aknowledge the change in policy but only stated, “National Cemeteries are established as national shrines in tribute to those who have died in service to our country, and as such any special activities within the cemetery are reserved for a limited set of official commemorative activities that have a connection to military service or have a historic and commemorative significance for the particular national cemetery.”

She contended the mass would disrupt the “atmosphere of solemnity, quiet contemplation and tranquility within this space.”

In 2022, the National Park Service, under guidance from the Biden Administration updated their policy to designate all “religious services” as “demonstrations” that are prohibited at national cemeteries.

The Knights of Columbus has for over 100 years made Memorial Day services a tradition in cities across the nation.

First Liberty senior counsel Roger Byron argues that the new policy to deny the service at the battlefield violates the First Amendment.

“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,” Bryson stated.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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