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A secular non-profit group that pushes separation of church and state is taking aim at another organization, Wreaths Across America, which for three decades has placed wreaths on the graves of thousands of military members.
An official with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is calling out the other group, noting in an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette that the act of placing wreaths on military members’ gravesites across the country is “unconstitutional, an atrocity and a disgrace.”
“We have no problem if people reach out and want a wreath on their deceased veterans’ graves, but to put them everywhere, to blanket them without permission of the surviving families is unconstitutional, an atrocity and a disgrace,” MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein told the outlet.
MRFF Senior Research Director Chris Rodda, meanwhile, claimed in a November piece that the tradition of laying the wreaths amounts to the “desecration of non-Christian veterans’ graves.”
“The gravesites of Christians and non-Christians alike will be adorned with this hijacked-from-paganism symbol of Christianity — circular and made of evergreen to symbolize everlasting life through Jesus Christ — whether the families of the deceased veterans like it or not,” Rodda noted.
In addition, Rodda said that Wreaths Across America “enlists the help of volunteers across the country to lay a wreath on every veteran’s grave, forcing the non-Christian dead who didn’t celebrate Christmas in life to celebrate it in death.”
Weinstein, who is Jewish, told the Colorado outlet that laying wreaths ought to “be an aspect of respect,” noting further that doing so is “almost like a fundamental Christian gang sign to put a symbol of the Christian season of Christmas on any grave.”
But Amber Caron, a spokeswoman for Wreaths Across America, which is based in Maine, told the Colorado Gazette the wreaths, which are made from 10 boughs of balsam tied together with a red velveteen bow, are not Christmas wreaths but are veterans’ wreaths.
“We are not ‘decorating graves’ but honoring American heroes,” she told the outlet.
“To argue that it isn’t a Christian symbol is preposterous,” Weinstein countered. “Imagine if that was an atheist, Satanic or Jewish symbol.”
Beginning in December 1992, Wreaths Across America has been dedicated to placing wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in order to honor the country’s fallen veterans; the group has expanded that effort since 2007, the Colorado Gazette reported. Caron said that her organization now lays wreaths at 3,100 burial sites, including 145 of 154 National Cemetery Administration properties.
Volunteers are expected to place some 2 million wreaths this year alone.
The laying of wreaths went digital in some locations last year during the COVID-19 pandemic out of concern for health and safety.
According to the organization’s website, this year’s wreath-laying observance will take place on Dec. 18 and is scheduled to feature “wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 2,500 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.”
“Individuals as well as groups such as American Legion posts and Scouting programs, contributed $24.9 million to Wreaths Across America in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, tax forms show,” the Gazette reported.
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