Legion Won't Be Marching With Exclusive Group


Fallout from the Christian Heritage parade's requirement that marchers sign a "Statement of Shared Convictions" continues with the latest revelation involving Fernandina Beach American Legion Post 54.

Earlier this year, officers of Post 54 determined that the required statement of commitment was not in keeping with the standards of Post 54 and its associated units. As a result, officers declared that all invitations to participate in the Christian Heritage events would be declined.

Earlier this year, the Post 54 Auxiliary Unit, which is composed of spouses, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons of military veterans, had received an informal parade invitation from a member of the First Baptist Church, one of the organizers of the Christian Heritage event.

"At the time it was being called the American Heritage parade that sounded like a faith and freedom theme, which would be a wonderful event for us to be involved with," said Post 54 Auxiliary Unit President Kelley McCrimmon. "But then it morphed into what it is now and became the Christian Heritage parade. It was not an all-inclusive parade and did not include people from all walks of life."

After the invitation was extended, the Auxiliary looked to the parent American Legion Post 54 leadership for approval.

American Legion Post 54 officials began researching the parameters for participation in the parade and discovered that a "Statement of Shared Convictions" -- a list of eight specific Christian statements -- was required to be signed by applicants in order to qualify for marching in the event.

"Once it was brought to American Legion leadership, they determined it was not appropriate for any of the legion groups to participate," she said. "The Legion precepts don't discriminate against anybody."

McCrimmon said she never dealt with the First Baptist Church regarding the Christian Heritage events.

First Baptist Church Lead Pastor Zach Terry did not respond to requests for comment via text message and voicemail.

The Post 54 Auxiliary Unit has about 220 members, and McCrimmon said officers from Post 54 determined the Christian Heritage parade "was not a good fit" with the constitution and values embraced by the American Legion.

American Legion Auxiliary members conduct events such as bingo, Council on Aging luncheons, Veterans Day activities, Military Spouse Appreciation Day and recycling for donations to Ronald McDonald House.

Among the values listed on the American Legion Auxiliary website are:

Respect for the uniqueness of individual members

Adherence to the adopted policies and rules

Newly installed American Legion Post 54 Commander Chris Watrous said the parade's "Statement of Shared Convictions" was in direct conflict with American Legion's values, specifically statement three which reads: "God created the institution of marriage to be between a man and a woman for life."

"The American Legion supports same-sex marriage," Watrous said. "This situation had the potential of being very divisive and it violates the very values at the heart of our organization."

Post 54 officers informed members of the Auxiliary Unit and others that the parade requirements prohibited any of the post's units from taking part in the Christian Heritage events.

"Anything that is controversial, we're not going to be part of. Post 54 supports being able to choose who you're going to be," Watrous said. "The Heritage parade people were asking us to choose a side. We don't believe that's good leadership. We believe the legion is a place where everybody is welcome and feels comfortable among their peers."

The Christian Heritage parade will be held this Saturday.