Biden Administration Shows Anti-Catholic Sentiment on Memorial Day


It took a lawsuit against the federal government for the Knights of Columbus of Petersburg, Virginia, to receive permission to host a Catholic Mass at a military cemetery on Memorial Day.

This week, Knights of Columbus Council 694 filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking to compel the park service to permit the group to host a Catholic Mass on the grounds of Poplar Grove National Cemetery in Petersburg, the final resting place of thousands of Civil War soldiers.

The Catholic fraternal organization had hosted a Mass on the site for more than half a century to commemorate Memorial Day. But last year, the park service informed the group that it would not be allowed to host the Mass because of a reinterpretation of a federal regulation prohibiting “special event[s] or demonstration[s],” including religious ceremonies at national cemeteries.

But the regulation had one notable exception. It allows such events if they are “official commemorative events conducted for Memorial Day, Veterans Day and other dates designated by the superintendent as having special historic and commemorative significance to a particular national cemetery.”

This caveat had afforded the Knights of Columbus the ability to host a Mass on the site for many years. That was, until the Biden administration decided that the rule was to be reinterpreted to prohibit the Mass. The group was forced to seek another site for its 2023 Mass, and its permit was again denied when the group applied for 2024.

On Thursday, just days after the lawsuit was filed, the Biden administration and the park service abruptly changed course and granted the permit for the Mass. The change came the same day that Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares filed an amicus brief excoriating the park service and the Biden administration for blocking the permit.

“It is difficult to conceive of a more blatant violation of the Free Exercise Clause or the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” Miyares wrote in his brief to the court. “The First Amendment requires that the government act neutrally with respect to religion, and it fails to do so when it ‘proceeds in a manner intolerant of religious beliefs or restricts practices because of their religious nature.’”

In a post on X, Miyares said the park service had granted the permit shortly after he filed the brief.

The park service did not respond to my request for comment.

While it is certainly good that the Biden administration and the park service relented and decided to allow the Knights of Columbus to have their Memorial Day Mass, the default hostility to the Catholic group fits into a larger pattern of abuse and persecution against any expression of Catholicism by the federal government under the Biden administration.

The fact that the Knights of Columbus were forced to seek a court order to host the Mass is proof enough of the extensive anti-Catholicism that has infected the federal government over the past three and a half years. The most infamous example of this intolerance was an FBI memo from last year that identified Catholics devoted to the Mass celebrated in Latin as a possible domestic terrorist threat and a group worthy of surveillance. The administration has also targeted conscience protections for Catholic doctors and hospitals that object to certain unnecessary procedures such as abortion and sex-reassignment surgeries.

The Biden administration may have correctly concluded that a public spat with a Knights of Columbus council that simply wanted to pray in a cemetery was a bad look, but if Joe Biden is reelected to the presidency in November, these attacks probably will only continue and get worse.

For a man who lays claim to being only the second Catholic elected to the presidency, Biden has made intolerance of Catholicism a feature, not a bug, of his administration’s policies.

Jeremiah Poff
Jeremiah Poff
Jeremiah Poff is a commentary writer. Raised in Virginia, Jeremiah previously worked as an education reporter. Prior to that, he worked for the Cardinal Newman Society, the Department of Education, and The College Fix. He graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2019 with a degree in journalism and a minor in human life studies.

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