There is something refreshing about the enduring public support for Sheriff Julian Whittington’s stand on voluntary prayer for the Sheriff’s Young Marines program.
I don’t believe that the value system that underlies that support is exclusive to the South – support has come from all over the nation. But that local support hasn’t yet waned says much about those who live and work in our little corner of northwest Louisiana.
Perhaps that’s because such a value system is so evident in other areas of our community.
A local media story this week about Bossier City’s Little League All-Star baseball team’s state District 4 championship cites Coach Josh Howard’s credit to “Strong Christian beliefs instilled into players and the staff …” along with hard work, for the team’s good fortune.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see any letters to the editor or local blog commentary critical of that credit. Generally speaking, we aren’t radical in that faith; instead it’s a conviction hovering just below the surface, that Judeo-Christian value system, that’s actively demonstrated without a whole lot of unnecessary verbiage. But it boils over the surface when a flunky federal functionary hundreds of miles away in Washington DC attempts to direct our convictions otherwise.
When it comes to the Young Marines program, last week saw tremendous community support as traffic wrapped around the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Home in south Bossier for an opportunity to buy a box lunch to support the Young Marines program. Sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, the event raised nearly $4,000 for the program.
Service members, veterans, and employees volunteered for the event. LDVA Secretary David Lacerte, a US Marine veteran, noted that our military includes chaplains and that prayer has been a part of the military for centuries.
Thursday (August 1) Dr. Joseph Finley, Executive Director of the Allen West Foundation was in town to present a $2,000 check to the Sheriff’s Young Marines program during a pizza luncheon at the Viking Drive Substation. The foundation was established by Lt. Col. Allen West earlier this year, who after retiring from a 22-year US Army career, served a term as a Congressman representing Florida’s 22nd Congressional District.
Because this column is written before Dr. Finley’s visit, I asked Bill Davis, Public Information Officer for Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office about the foundation’s interest in our local Young Marines Program. Davis said the Sheriff had a call from a foundation representative about a month ago to express West’s support for the program and the Sheriff’s position.
West’s foundation was founded with the purpose of inspiring and informing the next generation of conservative minority and veteran leaders. According to Davis, West entry into the US Army came by way of Army ROTC – and he sees the Young Marines as a similar opportunity to help younger people achieve.
Whittington was clear at the outset of his stand on voluntary prayer in the Young Marines program that his issue was not one of the grant funding; the Sheriff’s office budget could likely absorb the lost funding. Instead it was a matter of the youth in this program having the right to voluntary prayer. Said Whittington, “I work for the people of Bossier Parish and the majority of people in Bossier feel the same as I do … We are not lining people up against a wall and forcing them to pray. It has always been a volunteer led prayer.”
The lasting support in both voice and donations is inspiring as it demonstrates a strength of belief – and not just here at home, but from far points sharing a common principle in the concept of many American freedoms, not the least of which is to engage in voluntary prayer.