Anyone But Him Bless America

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There are
times when I think America is coming to its collective senses.
Then I recall North’s law of bureaucracy:

is no government regulation, no matter how plausible it initially
appears, that will not eventually be applied by some bureaucrat
in a way that defies common sense."

Today, more
Americans work for some agency of civil government (19.9 million)
than work in manufacturing (18.4 million).

are steadily taking over this country with our money. They are
re-shaping America in their image. This is why, day by day, in
every way, America is getting nuttier and nuttier.

The United
States appears to be about to embark on a military crusade to
remove authoritarianism from the Middle East. I can safely forecast
that this will be a very long crusade.

There will
be dead servicemen ("servicepersons") shipped home.
There will be funerals. But if officials at Brig. Gen. William
C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Burlington County, New
Jersey, have their way, there will be no official mention of —
dare I say the word? — God.


One of my
subscribers sent me the following newspaper report. It’s nice
to have a growing army of 50,000 potential informants out there.
I might otherwise have missed this. As you read it, ask yourself:
"Have madmen taken over America?" (You already know
my answer.)

As a military
honor guardsman, Patrick Cubbage had a simple message to the
families of deceased veterans at graveside services.

bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of
America," he would say as he presented a folded flag to

of that, Cubbage was fired in October from his job at the Brig.
Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Burlington
County, near McGuire Air Force Base.

He breached
cemetery protocol, his supervisor said, by deviating from the

family member ever objected," Cubbage, 54, a Vietnam combat
veteran, retired Philadelphia police officer, and former city
bail commissioner, said in a recent interview at his Northeast
Philadelphia home."

were always very grateful — and sometimes very moved. People
would even grip my hand and say things like u2018Thank you so much.’"

said he found the blessing in training literature he got when
he began working as a part-time guardsman at Doyle, making $16
an hour, in October 2001.

But Lt.
Col. Roberta Niedt, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department
of Military and Veterans Affairs, said Doyle — the state’s
largest veterans cemetery — has a "standard phrase
[for the flag presentation] for each service."

One of the
unbroken rules of all bureaucratic systems is this: the bureaucracy’s
official spokesperson always invokes some obscure rule, or even
some instantly made-up rule, to justify the latest outrage by
some faceless, high-level superior. Never is anything officially
done on the basis of principle, for that might lead some people
to believe that some principle is more important than a bureaucratic
rule. Citing a principle only gets a bureaucrat in trouble. Example:
Cubbage was dismissed not for the blessing, Niedt said, but for
departing from the standard presentation protocol.

There it
is, the touchstone of bureaucratic religion: protocol.
Even when it’s fictitious, like some Olympian deity, it will be

insisted, however, that he was operating within the rules for
honor guards. Opening a slender pamphlet that he said the cemetery
gave him when he started, he turned to a page topped by the
words Flag Presentation Protocol.

After Taps,
it explains, the honor guard folds an American flag into a triangle,
and a guardsman then steps before the appropriate family member.

on the branch of service, the presenter next is to say such
words as: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful
nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation
for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service," and
then to hand the flag to the deceased’s kin.

the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief,"
the instructions continue, "add: u2018God bless you and this
family, and God bless the United States of America.’ "

doesn’t say, u2018You may add …,’ " Cubbage, an evangelical
Christian who attends Calvary Chapel in Northeast Philadelphia,
said as he tapped sternly at the pamphlet. "And I said
it only if the family had a chapel service or had clergy at
the grave."

That seems
clear enough, but it did not persuade the protocol-honoring bureaucrats
at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

a part-time employee at Doyle, he said, he typically worked
from 25 to 35 hours a week, and he estimated that he participated
in about 2,000 burial ceremonies last year. "I probably
said the blessing 500 times."

But two
of his fellow honor guardsmen complained in October, he said,
and on Oct. 16 Iven Dumas, the cemetery’s honor guard coordinator,
ordered him to stop the blessings.

He said
he protested, noting, "It’s right in the manual."
Dumas replied that the blessing could offend Jews and Muslims,
he said, and should be used only when next of kin notify the
cemetery office that they want a blessing.

and Muslims believe in God," Cubbage said he replied.

he said, responded by handing him a copy of state regulations
prohibiting "harassment or hostile environments" in
the workplace.

Ah, yes:
harassment. I mean, here is an honor guardsman, dressed in a uniform,
burying a veteran who served his country honorably. And this thoughtless
churl in uniform says "God bless you" to the widow.
This kind of harassment has got to stop! And Mr. Dumas was just
the man to stop it.

Dumas declined
to be interviewed and referred inquiries to Niedt’s office.

that does not surprise me. But this does:

On Oct.
24, Joan L. Edwards, affirmative-action officer for the state
Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, wrote to Dumas
to clarify policy. Cubbage received a photocopy of the letter.

employees "must not engage in activities or expression
that a reasonable observer would interpret as government endorsement
… of religion," she wrote.

the next of kin expresses a religious preference "one way
or another," she continued, "then, the protocol would
be to omit the saying, u2018God bless …,’ portion of the presentation.
This is not optional."

I want you
to pay close attention to these revealing words: affirmative-action
officer for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

The official
backing up the decision against God’s name is not a chaplain,
nor is she a general who has seen combat, but an affirmative-action
officer. You know, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination
— that sort of thing. Not any more.

raving mad?" you ask. On the contrary, it’s right there in
the book. The Good Book. The ACLU’s Book of Anti-Church Order.

said he reluctantly stopped saying the blessing — until
Oct. 31. That day, he said, "this funeral procession pulls
in for a burial, and I see the u2018fish’ sign [a traditional symbol
in Christianity] on the back of one of the cars."

I start a conversation with the driver, who turns out to belong
to Calvary Chapel. I asked him if the family would mind if I
said the blessing. He said, u2018Oh, they’re very religious. I’m
sure they’d welcome it.’ "

The widow,
who was in a wheelchair, bowed her head at the blessing, Cubbage

But one
of the other guardsmen "practically ran to the office"
to report him, he said.

He said
Dumas called him into the office and demanded an explanation.
He said he explained that a family friend had assured him they
would welcome the blessing, but Dumas — citing Cubbage’s
"disregard for stated policy" — fired him that
day. . . .

Adam Cubbage
is now a captain in the 108th Air Squadron —
his father’s unit in the Vietnam War.

just don’t get it," Patrick Cubbage said of his firing.
"When you give people that flag, you see them look into
it and remember a whole time in their loved one’s life. So why
in God’s name did they fire me? Because in God’s name, they
did fire me."


I am opposed
to the coming war in the Middle East. There is no Constitutional
authorization for our launching a pre-emptive attack. But this
much is sure: if our troops are called into battle, they had better
have chaplains in their units.

I wonder:
What will chaplains tell them may await them? Death on the battlefield?
An honor guard at the funeral? And what should the chaplain suggest
as an appropriate hymn at the funeral? "Anyone But Him Bless

When the
men of my father’s generation went off to war, they and the folks
back home imagined that they were defending God and country, in
that order. Almost 300,000 of them died; over 700,000 were wounded.
Today, about 1,100 of them will die. An equal number will die
tomorrow. But at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial
Cemetery, their survivors will not get one of those intrusive
"God bless you’s" from the honor guard.

Honor guard.
The words hardly apply.

When will
it end? Not in my lifetime, surely. Probably not in yours. Men
of faith have been hammered by faceless bureaucrats for so long
that they no longer complain. They have rolled over and played
dead. They no longer seem to expect the blessing of God. They
expect only the cursing of bureaucrats.

Capt. Cubbage
says he intends to sue. I hope he does.

I hope he

We are up
against the wall. When you’re up against the wall, you had better

I’m all for
making a buck. I’m all for wise investing. But some things are
more important than making a buck.

you can do to put pressure on the self-conscious but faceless,
two-bit tyrants who are steadily taking over this country is effort
well spent. They hide behind their regulations and their protocol,
and stick knives daily into the heart of this nation — from the

I don’t care
if it is politically incorrect to quote George C. Wallace. He
said it best: "Send them a message!"

Here endeth
the lesson.

1, 2003

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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