The New Jersey honor guardsman who was fired for saying “God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America” during grave-side burial services for veterans has won his job back – with back pay.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Vietnam combat veteran Patrick Cubbage believed he was only following orders in giving the blessing as he presented a folded flag to the fallen veteran’s family.
He cited the federal flag presentation protocol detailed in training literature he was given when he began working as a part-time guardsman at the Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in North Hanover, N.J., in October 2001.
The protocol calls for honor guardsmen to give the very blessing Cubbage offered “if the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief.” Cubbage said he always checked with the family first to see if they would like to receive the blessing.
But after one of Cubbage’s fellow honor guardsmen complained, Cubbage was ordered to stop giving the blessing because it could “offend Jews and Muslims.” He then was fired last October after he continued to give the blessing.
According to the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, or NJDMVA, Cubbage was dismissed for departing from the cemetery’s standard presentation protocol.
The American Family Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes family values, picked up on the incident and issued an action alert e-mail to its members urging them to contact Gov. James McGreevey and top officials at the NJDMVA and raise objection to “PC run amok.”
As a result, the governor received 65,000 e-mails in support of Cubbage, according to AFA.
At the same time, the international civil-liberties group The Rutherford Institute came on the scene to mount a legal defense for Cubbage.
“It’s a dark day in the life of our nation when an American can’t ask God’s blessing on this country,” John W. Whitehead, the institute’s president commented at the time.
State officials immediately responded to the pressure, and offered to reinstate Cubbage “subject to a negotiated agreement” with the state.
However, Whitehead told WND the “negotiated agreement” offered to his client by NJDMVA “insulted” and “deflated” Cubbage because it called for him to reapply for his position as though he were a rookie and required him to say that he violated the federal policy on military funeral honors.
Whitehead and NJDMVA went back to the drawing board and reached a new deal last week. According to the terms, Cubbage will receive 10 months’ back pay.
“I’m glad it’s over – well, I hope it’s over,” Cubbage told the Philadelphia Inquirer. He returns to work Monday.
Whitehead describes the settlement as “precedent-setting” and said that as a result the cemetery’s interment officer must now raise the issue and ask the families of the deceased if they want the blessing given.
“Before they could do it,” the Inquirer quotes Whitehead as saying. “Now, they have to do it.”
Calls to the Rutherford Institute seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Meanwhile, the organization’s drive to get President George W. Bush and Congress to take a stand on “God bless America” continues.
“America is supposed to be a land where freedom and faith go hand in hand, but for Patrick Cubbage … it seems to bear little resemblance to the framework our founding fathers established to protect our rights to religious freedom,” reads the petition.
According to the website, 10,638 people have added their electronic signatures to the petition.
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