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-Judge Orders Freedom of Religious Expression at National Cemeteries

by Dr. D ~ October 25th, 2011

Injuries incurred by service members are cover...

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A Federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to allow freedom of religious expression at national cemeteries

A lawsuit had been filed against a DVA policy that had resulted in restricting prayers and references to ‘God’ and “Jesus” during services at Houston National cemetery. We posted about this situation in June and also earlier in May. 

Now Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes has signed a consent decree which ordered the DVA to stop banning prayer and the word "God" and “Jesus” at national cemeteries. She also ordered them to revoke DVA national policies hostile to religion. In addition, the judge specifically directed the agency to re-open the Chapel at the Houston National Cemetery.

Hiram Sassar of Liberty Institute which handled the lawsuit had this to say about the results of the case:

"This is an order from the court that enforces about 12 pages of provisions, some of which include the repeal of some long-standing national policies concerning banning [of] certain religious statements during military funerals. It’s just a huge victory for religious freedom across the board."

"This consent decree will apply to every employee of the VA, including the director of the Houston National Cemetery. If any employee of the VA violates this order, they will be subject to contempt of court and be thrown in jail."

Response: This is one of those incredible cases that brings to the forefront how government agencies, in this case the DVA, are sometimes out of control. The agency had formulated a number of directives and rules which on its face had eliminated the practice of religion in national cemeteries across the country, even in private burial ceremonies.

Most of the directors at the national cemeteries apparently continued as they always had allowing families to have ministers officiate and make religious remarks unfettered by the directives.

However, the director at the Houston National Cemetery carried out the letter of the anti-religious DVA rules and required all prayers and religious remarks to be submitted ahead of time for approval. According to reports, the name “Jesus’ was considered particularly offensive and was supposed to be eliminated from all services at the national cemetery. The director at Houston National also closed the chapel on the campus and relegated it be used for storage only.

When I first read about this case I was shocked since I had only 10 years or so ago buried both of my parents at a national cemetery with a gravesite Christian service. I am so glad to see this errant policy overturned.

It really does point out the need for all Christians and people of faith to stand up and be counted against the secular and anti-religious forces in this country which would drive all religion from the public square. This case came to national attention because one pastor refused to have Jesus edited out of his prayers. May we all be so bold and stand up for the name of Jesus.            *Top 

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