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New Freedom VFW slaps chaplain with cease-and-desist for criticizing evictions

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Tenant Sandy Wennersten, left, and Kyle Hopkins, chaplin of VFW 7012 in New Freedom, talk about the eviction notices tenants received giving them 90 days to move out. 
Wednesday, July 28, 2020. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7012 in New Freedom sent a cease-and-desist order to a member after he criticized the organization over its plan to evict multiple tenants and raze its apartment buildings.

The order accused post chaplain Kyle Hopkins of "prejudice" and "disobedience" for speaking to the media about the VFW's plan to evict six families from post-owned property.

Hopkins violated the organization's bylaws by speaking publicly about "private business," the letter states. 

"Specifically, your comments to the press are prejudicial to good order and discipline of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States," the letter states. "Again, you are here-by ordered to cease all actions prejudicial to Post 7012 and its members." 

Hopkins said he was shocked when he found the letter in his mailbox Wednesday but won't let the VFW's threats silence him.

"I cannot be part of an organization that treats people poorly," Hopkins told The York Dispatch on Wednesday. "If that means they are going to kick me out of the VFW because I choose to exercise my First Amendment rights, which supersedes their bylaws, then so be it."

According to a copy of the cease-and-desist letter obtained by The York Dispatch, Hopkins is accused of disobedience and disregard of organization bylaws, prejudicial behavior and divulging of private business with the intent of "embarrassing" the VFW. The letter is signed by post Capt. John Smith.

Leadership at VFW Post 7012 could not be reached Wednesday for comment. The organization has said the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic drove the decision to evict the tenants.  

John Getz Jr., state adjutant and quartermaster to the VFW State Headquarters, who was also named on the letter, noted that no comment would be made at this time.

Hopkins is one of three New Freedom residents who have organized a protest, scheduled for Saturday, against the VFW after six families received letters July 10 stating their leases would be terminated in October.

More:'I cried for days': New Freedom VFW Post orders tenants to vacate property

The notice to vacate would affect all occupants of three houses at West Main Street and North Third Street in New Freedom.

Though tenants were given 90 days to pack up and find another place to live, Dominique Svatey and four other renters all agreed during an interview Aug. 2 that it isn't enough time, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

All residents are still required to pay monthly rent until the lease terminates on Oct. 15. Each resident pays at least $500 a month, including utilities.

The protest against VFW Post 7012 is slated for 3 p.m. Saturday at the organization's building, located at 123 W. Main St. in New Freedom. 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.