“I had just started the membership process in January. All my paperwork is verified and documents done, but I have stalled the process until this gets resolved because when I questioned this as a prospective member, not only the changes themselves, but also the process of how they were done, I was promptly chastised and then banned from the DAR Facebook pages, and all my questions deleted.”
~Jennifer Jones Beauford, Texas.
For the past month or so, I have received statements like Jennifer’s by members and prospective members of the “National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution” (DAR). Jennifer’s comment summarizes the controversy that has been surrounding the 123-year old organization for over a year.
Until now, my sources had been hesitant about revealing their identity to other news outlets. Fox News allegedly dropped this story because members reportedly refused to reveal their identity and wanted to remain anonymous. They didn’t want their concerns to appear as an attack on the NSDAR, but rather wanted the focus to remain on exposing the troubling changes taking place within the current administration. However, in the midst of my writing this article, several courageous women have come forward and granted me permission (for the first time) to use their names. Their hope is that other women will be made aware of the battle they are waging on behalf of their Judeo-Christian values and what they see as the proliferation of “revisionist history” within their organization.
Scores of Christian women are literally up in arms fighting against what they believe is an attempt to alter the history and tradition of one of the oldest and largest women’s group in the world. Citing the “violation of circularization” claim found in the DAR Handbook and By-Laws, members are being threatened with everything from disciplinary action to expulsion in an alleged attempt to silence them from speaking out against the dramatic changes taking place within their organization.
Allegedly in the name of political correctness and becoming “more inclusive”, the name “Jesus” and other Christian symbols, poems, writings, oaths and songs that promulgate the Judeo-Christian values of our Founding Fathers have been removed. The results have been outrage, petitions, and resignation by long-time members.
“True Christians and Patriots and students of our history know very well that to be a true believer means you cannot compartmentalize one’s faith in order to be politically correct,” said Beauford.
The NSDAR is comprised of 170,000 members worldwide whose genealogy can be traced back to the colonists who fought for independence in the American Revolution. Founded in 1890 and based in Washington, DC, the non-political, private organization, who’s motto is “God, Home, and Country”, is known for its patriotic service, the promotion of education through various programs and scholarships, and its role in the preservation of American history.
To understand the dissension within the NSDAR, one must first understand the importance of the tradition and history found in the guidebooks used by chaplains and members called “Rituals” and “Missals”. In the past, Rituals and Missals were compiled by appointed Chaplain Generals, revised by each new administration, and had contributions by state chaplains. The new guidebook broke from that tradition when President General Merry Ann T. Wright and the Executive Committee reportedly took it upon themselves to combine the two books into one as the 2011 Ritual and Missal, arbitrarily deleting references to Christianity which they allegedly deemed might be “offensive” to some members of other faiths.
However, according to the members I spoke to, there were already provisions in the guidebook for different faiths. From the 2008 Ritual: “Worship is a private and personal matter and there are no written rules relative to worship services in the National Society. Nonetheless, Chapter and State Chaplains need be ever sensitive to members of different faiths.”
Some of the alleged changes and deletions most concerning members are:
1. The removal of up to forty references to the name “Jesus Christ” in the new combined Ritual and Missal. While there are numerous references to “God”, “Father”, and “Lord”, the specific name of Jesus can only be found in a parenthetical statement above an Easter prayer. “Christ” appears only three times. As Margaret Thompson, Virginia, stated, “These are generic, politically correct titles that can apply to any god and can be found in any religion.”
2. The deletion or altering of prayers and poems that reference a Christian symbol. One of the most compelling examples of this drastic change can be found in the “Prayer for Our Nation on the Brink of War”:
3.The removal of “in Jesus’ name we pray” from traditional prayers. In fact, not one single prayer in the entire 2011 Ritual and Missal ends with “Jesus”, “Christ Jesus”, or “Jesus Christ”. A quick perusal of prayers found in the 2008 Ritual and the 2011 Ritual confirms this.
4. The title of a poem by Helen Steiner Rice used in the handbook has been changed from the original “A Christmas Meditation” to “New Year Meditation”. After contacting the Helen Steiner Rice Foundation (Museum Center) in Cincinnati, Ohio, I ascertained that the poem title had been changed.
5. Credits have been removed from sacred writings, such as the Book of Common Prayer and writings submitted by chaplains.
6. The following statement had been deleted from the oath used in the installation of officers and new members: “I promise faithfully to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and to respect its Flag”. When members asked why the NSDAR would keep an oath to the bylaws of NSDAR but not to the Constitution or to the Flag of the United States, they were told there were “transcription errors” to the erroneous inclusion of the oath from the Oversea Unit Guidebook. However, it has been confirmed that overseas chapters use the American guidebook. It was stated: “All Ritual is identical for Units Overseas chapters and those in the USA. The Oath of Membership, found in the Missal, produced by Chaplains General, is the same in all DAR chapters–domestic and foreign.” (After receiving multiple complaints about the exclusion/”transcription error”, the words, “…promise to uphold the Constitution and Flag” were returned to the 2011 Ritual on-line only—but not in print.)
Indiana member Kathi said, “I resigned because they removed all references to Jesus Christ as well as references and /or passages relating to our military and our flag.”
“In promoting the importance of freedom of religion upon which our country was founded, our Founding Fathers intended for all religions and not one specific faith to be allowed and respected. The Constitution of the United States of America is clear on this issue as are many of the letters and writings of these great leaders. It was in the spirit of our Founding Fathers desire for freedom of religion that the most recent changes to the Ritual and Missal were made.”
However, members are continuing to make claims that the administration is trying to silence dissenting voices. Nancy Diane Welch, State Chaplain of the Oregon DAR, wrote the following to the President General in March 2012:
“I am greatly distressed that you (the Leadership of this organization) would even consider rewriting the Ritual book for reasons of not offending ‘non believers’. If non-Christians feel strongly patriotic, and wish to join our organization, they should do so without demanding that we compromise our faith when we pray. They should respect our heritage and we shall respect their wish to not bow their head in prayer with us. It is an option much more acceptable for our patriotic, Christian founded society, than removing our living Lord from our prayers.”
Ms. Welch says she resigned after being asked to apologize for speaking out against the new policy and for using “a derogatory statement” in reference to the administration.
Another member who resigned from her chapter in Texas is Mariam Kirby, saying the edited guidebook has “offended many…while trying to appease a few.”
Kirby asks, “Isn’t it up to the few to provide scripture or other writings and ask that they be included, rather than demand that the majority give up significant parts of their religion?”
Meanwhile, the “Daughters” are fighting back. Members have written letters to the President General, and created a Facebook page, “DAR Daughters for Tradition”. Another group of members, “Patriot Daughters Standing for Christ”, have created a petition in hopes that the current administration will reverse itself.
A formal grievance has been filed by two members, Gail Nash,Virginia, and Lyn Schuller, Oregon, demanding to have the 2011 Ritual returned to the 2008 Ritual. According to Lyn Schuller, “We are not asking NSDAR to ADD anything for the Christian Members, only to return our Ritual and Missal to it’s original form. The original includes prayers with Christ’s name and without His name.”
“This form has been in print for all these years”, says Schuller. “It seems so illogical for the President General and Executive Committee to say they are being ‘inclusive’ by excluding Christians. I always thought inclusive meant all are included? As followers of Christ we’re told we are to pray in Christ’s name.”
A few small victories have recently been won. PolitiChicks.tv has obtained correspondence dated September 12, 2012 from the law firm retained by NSDAR listing responses to some of their grievances, including:
• The 2003 [Ritual] will be placed on line and made available free to all members. Further, specific reference on the Chaplain General’s webpage will be made that the name Jesus Christ can be inserted into any prayers, regardless of the edition.
• [T]he passage “Do you promise faithfully to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America” has been added back into the on-line version of the Installation of Officers.
• [T]he passage “Do you promise faithfully to uphold the Constitution of the United States and to respect the Flag of the United States of America” has been added back into the on-line version of the Oath of Membership.
• [N]o disciplinary action will be taken against any members related to this matter for any activity to date”….
So why is this not enough for many DAR members?
“It is felt by many that the only way to remedy this situation is to revise the Ritual and Missal book to reflect that Christianity in the Society is acceptable and that we as Christians will pray in Jesus’ name,” says Gail Nash. “[T]he only way to do that is to return to the pre-December 2011 edition where the name of Jesus Christ is present throughout the prayers and rituals. The President General has said that ‘consideration’ is being given for an addendum for the current Ritual and Missal that includes the use of Christ’. An addendum is totally unacceptable to all the members who are involved with this issue.”
Simply put, they want a return to the tradition that recognizes their strong Judeo-Christian heritage. They are willing to stand their ground when it comes to a choice between loyalty to their faith or loyalty to an organization–no matter what the cost.
As DAR member Margaret Thomson says, “Where does ‘not offending’ someone stop? Do we eliminate crosses and the Stars of David from Arlington National Cemetery? Will a Daughter be told that she cannot wear a gold cross around her neck at DAR meetings because it might ‘offend’ someone? Will NSDAR’s Christmas tree and Christmas Open House be called the Holiday tree and the Holiday Open House?”