Catholic Fraternity Secures Permission To Hold Memorial Day Mass At National Cemetery After Pushback

The Knights of Columbus a Catholic fraternal organization will be allowed to hold their traditional Memorial Day Mass at the Poplar Grove National Cemetery in Virginia after the National Park Service (NPS) reversed its decision to ban the event. The group has held the service at the cemetery every year since at least the 1960s but faced resistance this year following a policy change made under the Biden administration in 2022.

The NPS had initially classified the Mass as a prohibited “demonstration” due to its religious nature, prompting the Knights to file a temporary restraining order against the agency. However on Thursday the NPS granted a permit allowing the Mass to take place on Monday as scheduled.

“We appreciate the tremendous support of Gov. [Glenn] Youngkin and Attorney General [Jason] Miyares in this case” said Roger Byron a senior counsel at First Liberty Institute which represented the Knights along with the law firm McGuireWoods. John Moran a partner at McGuireWoods expressed gratitude to the NPS for allowing the service to proceed.

The Knights had contended that the NPS was misapplying its regulations and infringing upon their First Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The agency had proposed the group hold the Mass outside the cemetery grounds near the parking lot but the Knights considered this solution “unreasonable unnecessary and unconstitutional.”
The NPS’s reversal comes after the Knights’ Petersburg Council 694 filed the temporary restraining order in federal court.