Sunday, July 03, 2011

Houston Pastors Ask VA Official be Fired

Houston pastors have planned a July 4 protest calling for removal of the head of the city's veterans cemetery for censoring religious expression at ceremonies, including the use of "God bless you" at funerals and praying in Jesus' name.

For background, read Feds Fail to Ban Jesus from Memorial Day at Houston VA Cemetery

UPDATE 7/26/11: Calls for Congressional probe into ban of Christian prayers at VA cemetery

UPDATE 7/21/11: Lawmaker says he'll 'zero out' VA official's job

UPDATE 7/18/11: VA denies censorship at Houston National Cemetery

-- From "VA accused in Texas lawsuit of religious bias" by The Associated Press 7/1/11

Several Houston veterans groups are accusing officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of religious discrimination, saying they are being banned at soldiers' funerals from using certain religious words such as "God" and are having their prayers censored.

The VFW and the American Legion say that on at least four occasions in the last two months, VA officials told them that prayer and religious speech could no longer be included in burial rituals they take part in at the Houston cemetery unless families submit a specific prayer or message in writing to Arleen Ocasio, the cemetery's director.

The National Memorial Ladies, a local nonprofit that honors veterans and their families, accuses Ocasio of telling the group it could not use religious words such as "God" or "Jesus" or speak a religious message when talking to veterans' families at the cemetery. The group also said it was told it had to remove the phrase "God Bless" from condolence cards it gives to families at funerals.

The groups also accused Ocasio and the VA of closing the chapel at Houston's cemetery, removing the cross and Bible that were inside and basically turning the building into a "storage facility."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Legion Supporting Religious Censorship Charge Against VA" by The American Legion (posted at The Sacramento Bee) 7/1/11

On Tuesday, June 28, Liberty Institute in Dallas filed court papers alleging that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the 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. The American Legion will support the case as an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") as soon as possible.

"The hostile and discriminatory actions by the Veterans Affairs officials in Houston are outrageous, unconstitutional and must stop," said Jeff Mateer, 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."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "VA: 'God' Allowed at Cemetery" by Sally MacDonald, FOX TV-26 Houston 7/1/11

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is responding for the first time to complaints the Houston National Cemetery director has gone rogue.

VA Press Secretary Josh Taylor issued the following statement:

"Invoking the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed, it is common at VA National Cemeteries across the country. However, VA's policy is that VA-sponsored honor guards should not make recitations at commital services unless requested to do so by the deceased's survivor(s.)"

Taylor also directed FOX 26 to a little known policy dated 2007. It says Honor Guards "shall not provide texts of any such recitations to the deceased's survivors for consideration."

Lawmakers are beginning to call for the firing of the cemetery's director.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Pastors: Fire VA cemetery chief who banned 'God bless'" posted at World Net Daily 6/30/11

Speaking for the [Houston Area Pastor Council], Pastor Willie Davis, an Army Special Forces veteran, said the pastors concur "wholeheartedly" with a call for dismissal by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, "for these egregious attacks on the sacred right of expressing religious faith on the hallowed ground of our National Cemetery on behalf of those who died to protect that right."

"There can be no better way to spend a few minutes on Independence Day than to stand together as a community at the National Cemetery and make our voices heard," Davis said.

In court Tuesday, Judge Hughes rebuked VA attorney Fred Hinrichs for being unable to answer her question about whether the chapel was open, noting a simple phone call to the cemetery could provide an answer.

Hughes gave the government until July 21 to investigate and respond to the the complaint.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.