Today, I received the following letter in the mail from the Brandy Station Foundation:
Dear Mr. Wittenberg,
It is my responsibility to inform you that the Board of Directors has voted against accepting your application for membership in the Brandy Station Foundation. The basis for that decision is Article 2, Section 3, of the Brandy Station Foundation’s by laws.
I am returning your application form.
Margaret L. Misch, Secretary
Brandy Station Foundation
I had submitted my membership application, along with the annual dues of $25, plus an additional $25. And, as you can see, it was rejected.
The provision of the by-laws cited as the justification for refusing us membership states: “Termination of Membership. A member may resign at any time. The Board of Directors may request the resignation, or terminate the membership, of a member for any act or omission deemed to be inconsistent with or harmful to the goals of the Foundation.” The 2009 Annual Report for the BSF establishes the following as the strategic goals of the organization:
The Board of Directors has identified four strategic goals which focus all the activities of the BSF. These are:
(1) Conserve, protect and nurture the historic rural character of the Brandy Station area;
(2) Preserve and protect the Brandy Station Battlefield and related sites of historical significance for the appreciation and education of future generations;
(3) Recognize the courage and dedication of soldiers who fought and served here; and
(4) Advance the knowledge and understanding of the history of the battles, the region and its environment.
It bears noting that most of the former members of the board who resigned over the Lake Troilo fiasco have received identical rejections, including Clark B. Hall, the founder and former president of the organization. Let me see if I’ve got this right: the founder of the organization and the man most responsible for saving the battlefield is considered detrimental to that organization by the current board. I cannot think of a bigger slap in the face.
I cannot see where our actions to hold McKinney and the Board of Appeasers accountable for their malfeasance runs afoul of these stated goals or justifies a refusal to permit us to be members, but they seem to think it does. In fact, we’re trying to force them to do precisely what they’ve been charged to do: preserving and protecting the battlefield. Therefore, it seems that our actions are precisely in compliance with the goals and objectives of the organization.
There can be only one explanation for this outcome: Joseph McKinney–the non-preservationist in charge of the BSF–and his Board of Appeasers are afraid that those of us who actually care about preserving the battlefield will mount a campaign at the annual meeting of the BSF in April and vote them out of office, thereby (a) rejecting their appeasement policy and (b) ending their little fiesta of self-aggrandizement at the expense of the preservation of the battlefield.
Apparently, exercising one’s First Amendment right to the freedom of speech makes one a trouble-maker who can not be a member of the BSF. So, McKinney and the rest of the Board of Appeasers have now determined that they’re empowered to dictate whether members of the organization have the right to criticize an idiotic policy at the threat of terminating their memberships. The last time I checked–and I did graduate from law school 25 years ago–we Americans have the right to freely speak our minds–even in an offensive fashion–without fear of retribution. Either I’m wrong, or, more likely, McKinney and the Board of Appeasers have determined that they’re above the law, and able to dictate to their members what those members say, think, or do.
The problem with that approach is that the BSF is a 501(c)(3) organization. In order to maintain that status, it is required to comply with the law. One of the primary rules pertaining to 501(c)(3) organizations is that they are not permitted to discriminate against potential members, and that they are required to accept anyone qualified as a member. Refusing membership because someone has exercised his or her First Amendment right to free speech does not fall within the legal definition of grounds for disqualifying someone from membership. This means that McKinney and the Board of Appeasers have made yet another terrible decision in the exercise of their own self-interest: in refusing us membership to save their own positions, they have now jeopardized the 501(c)(3) status of the organization. Legal counsel is presently investigating this, and if I am correct about this, I intend to report them to the IRS.
Perhaps then, these morons will realize that they’re not bigger than, nor above, the law.Scridb filter