|For Immediate Release
November 3, 2011
Contact: Kim Smith Hicks, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Full Committee Markup of
H.R. 2369, Amend the American Legion’s Federal Charter
Chairman Smith: The American Legion received its federal charter in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Today, the Legion is America’s largest veterans service organization with two and a half million members. Membership is available to persons who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during wartime -- including the current war on terrorism -- and who were honorably discharged or continue in their service.
The Legion’s goals are to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, promote worldwide peace and good will, and preserve the memories of the two world wars and the other conflicts fought to uphold democracy. The Legion also aims to cement the ties and comradeship born of service and commit the efforts of its members to service to the United States.
The American Legion has over 14,000 local posts. The national organization is not designed to have control over all the independent posts. As the Supreme Court of Minnesota has found, local “Posts and [State chapters] are separately incorporated…and the posts all have their own constitutions and by-laws. . . .”
The court found that there was a very limited relationship between the posts and national headquarters.
The national organization’s “Officer’s Guide and Manual of Ceremonies” states that “[t]he post is a separate and distinct unit which can, and often does, function independently.”
The American Legion has asked Congress to amend its federal charter to specify that the national organization may “provide guidance and leadership to the individual Departments and Posts, but may not control or otherwise influence the specific activities and conduct of the independent, autonomous Departments and Posts . . . .”
The Director of the Legion’s National Legislative Commission explained the request by stating that:
[The Legion wants to] allow members to renew their membership and pay their dues to the National Organization through the use of a credit card over the internet. . . . Currently these dues payments flow to the national organization from our posts through our departments. [We are concerned that] plaintiff’s lawyers would [argue this would indicate that] the National Organization has “control” over those Departments and Posts. . . . [A]ppearance of “control” may . . . support a claim of liability against the National Organization when a legal dispute against a post arises. . . .
H.R. 2369 amends the Legion’s federal charter as requested. I commend Mr. Altmire for this legislation and am pleased to see that the bill has a remarkable 427 co-sponsors.