Veterans Affairs Bans Mention of God at Funerals for Vets
The VFW District 4, American Legion Post 586, National Memorial Ladies Join Lawsuit Against VA and Director of Houston National Cemetery for Religious Hostility
HOUSTON, June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Liberty Institute, on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4, The American Legion Post 586, and the National Memorial Ladies, returned to federal court with new allegations of religious hostility and unlawful censorship by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its director of the Houston National Cemetery. Last month, Liberty Institute successfully represented Houston pastor Scott Rainey in the same federal court after Houston VA officials tried to prevent him from praying in Jesus' name at a Memorial Day ceremony.
"The hostile and discriminatory actions by the Veterans Affairs officials in Houston are outrageous, unconstitutional and must stop," said Jeff Mateer, Esq., general counsel of Liberty Institute. "Government officials who engage in religious discrimination against citizens are breaking the law. Sadly, this seems to be a pattern of behavior at the Houston VA National Cemetery."
Today, Liberty Institute amended its original lawsuit that states the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, are engaging in religious viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, by adding new incidents of religious hostility including:
VA Forbids Mention of God at Funerals for Veterans and Requires Families to Submit Prayer for Approval to the Government: For 30 years, the VFW District 4 burial team, at the request of the family of the deceased, has honored veterans by performing the VFW burial ritual during private burial services at the Houston National Cemetery. For 20 years, The American Legion Post 586 has honored our veterans by performing its burial ritual for fallen veterans. On at least four separate occasions, government officials told the burial teams that prayer and religious speech could no longer be included in the burial ritual unless the family submits a specific prayer or message in writing to Director Ocasio for her approval. Government official Jose Henriquez also told the VFW Honor Guard Commander, Junior Vice Commander and Chaplain that the word "God" is forbidden.