A debate regarding various definitions of patriotism was trigged in Pittsburg, Kan., when Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit with the local post office regarding a "God Bless America" banner that post office employees had erected outside of the building after Sept. 11, 2001. When the sign was taken down last month, a local business rushed to print thousands of "God Bless" signs to distribute throughout the community.
A lawsuit filed by the foundation on behalf of a Pittsburg resident forced the banner down in late January, The Christian Post reported.
"We're very pleased that the post office took the right steps to separate church and state and abide by the post office regulations," Madeline Ziegler, a legal fellow at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said in a statement to The Joplin Globe.
Ed Hinde, who served as postmaster at the Pittsburg office for more than a decade, told The Joplin Globe he and his employees decided to install the original banner as a sign of solidarity after the 2001 terror attacks. The former postmaster said the employees paid for half of the banner, and he paid for the other half.
Following the banner's banishment, a business owner in the area from Jake's Fireworks, printed and gave away 1,200 "God Bless America" yard signs and 300 banners. Dozens of vehicle drivers lined up to get the signs, which were all taken within 45 minutes, according to the Post.
"Obviously, we're among the majority that didn't agree with the decision to take the sign down," retail sales director Jason Marietta told The Morning Sun.
However, not all residents support such a banner being displayed at a U.S. post office. "Let's call a spade a spade," Bert Patrick wrote in a letter to the editor for The Morning Sun.
"The sign was removed because the postal officials realized, most likely after consulting legal counsel, that the sign's message violated the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from supporting any religion."
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., however, said the Constitution guarantees "freedom of religion, not freedom from religion," reports Fox News.
"It is outrageous that some would aim to divide a community over a banner that has been proudly displayed since Sept. 11, 2001," Moran wrote on Facebook. "I commend the Pittsburg community for rejecting this decision and I stand with them."
"If the local post office branch is unwilling to display the banner, then I would be proud to hang it at my own office in Pittsburg," the senator added.