Residents Unhappy With Removal Of ‘God Bless America’ Banner Commemorating Sept. 11, 2001
PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Pittsburg post office on Wednesday removed a banner that read “God Bless America,” after receiving letters from a Wisconsin foundation that believes its presence violated the principle of separation between church and state, but many local residents were unhappy about it.
Ruth Wegner whose husband, Richard, worked at the post office for 20 years, watched as it came down.
“This just infuriates me,” she said. “It tore my heart out.”
Postal workers paid for the 12-foot-long vinyl banner after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that took down the Twin Towers and killed 2,996 people in New York, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
“We’re very pleased that the post office took the right steps to separate church and state and abide by the post office regulations,” said Madeline Ziegler, a legal fellow at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which repeatedly wrote the post office about the banner.
The $11.5 million foundation based in Madison, Wisconsin, has been involved in many similar campaigns, including an unsuccessful push to get Missouri sheriffs to remove “In God We Trust” bumper stickers from department vehicles and an unsuccessful court battle to get “In God We Trust” removed from the nation’s coins and currency.
Twana Barber, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Post Office, said the postal service decided to take down the banner because of postal regulations.
“Postal policy prohibits the placement of notices or displays on postal property, unless they are official government notices or announcements, or are approved postal signage, promotional materials or communications,” Barber said in an statement emailed to the Globe Wednesday.
Ed Hinde watched as employees took out the eight screws holding the red, white and blue banner to the southeast corner of the post office at Seventh and Locust streets. They rolled up the banner because it was brittle after more than a decade outside.
“After the Sept. 11 attacks, a group of employees came to me and said, ‘Let’s do something’,” recalled Hinde, who served as postmaster from 1987 to 2003. “The employees paid for half of it, and I paid for half of it.”
About a dozen people, including retired letter carriers, members of the American Legion and other Pittsburg residents, watched in silence.
“This banner had nothing to do with religion,” Hinde said. “It was to commemorate 3,000 people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and to instill patriotism.” More