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Veterans Affairs Bans Mention of God at Funerals for Vets

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Filed: Country: Belarus
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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, Texas, June 28, 2011 — 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.

VA instructs the VFW and a Private Funeral Home that they may not present the option of prayer to families:

American Heritage Funeral Home, which sits next to the Houston National Cemetery and specializes in veterans' funerals, was instructed by government officials that the funeral home may not inform the families that they have the option of requesting prayer in the VFW burial ritual.

VA Tells Volunteers to Remove "God Bless" from Condolence Cards to Grieving Families:

About a year ago, Director Ocasio instructed the president of the National Memorial Ladies that the words “God” and “Jesus” are forbidden and that "God Bless" could no longer be written in condolence cards to families. Volunteers also were banned from speaking a religious message when talking directly to veterans' families on cemetery grounds.

VA Closes Cemetery Chapel; Uses it for Storage:

The chapel where families used to gather, pray and reflect has been closed and is now called a "meeting facility" and used for storage. The chapel cross and Bible have been removed and the bells that once used to chime are no longer used.

"On March 15, Director Ocasio told me that I couldn’t say 'May God grant you grace, mercy and peace' to grieving families, said Nobleton Jones, Honor Guard Junior Vice Commander. "Today we ask the government to make it right."

"All we wanted was to give honor to fallen soldiers," said Inge Conley, incoming VFW District 4 Commander.

Today's hearing took place before Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes who had granted the original temporary restraining order preventing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from censoring Pastor Rainey's prayer in May. Judge Hughes gave the government until July 15 to respond to the new allegations and set a status hearing for July 21.

http://libertyinstitute.org/current_cases.php?category=6&article=220

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Congressman Culberson has sent the following letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, regarding instances of religious censorship at Houston National Cemetery:

Secretary Shinseki,

I am writing to let you know that I am in complete agreement with the attached May 26, 2011 ruling from United States District Judge Lynn N. Hughes. Ms. Arleen Ocasio’s actions violate the Constitution, and I insist that you remove her as Director of the Houston National Cemetery immediately. In addition, I ask that you reopen the cemetery’s chapel for its intended purpose and reequip it as a functioning, non-denominational place of worship. I also ask that you make it clear to veterans organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Memorial Ladies, that they are always welcome at VA facilities and that they can pray in any manner they choose if requested by a veteran’s surviving spouse or family member.

Judge Hughes’ order eloquently expresses the outrage I felt as I learned about these events, and it is urgent that you remedy this problem immediately. Limiting the free speech of any American is outrageous and unconstitutional, but it is especially offensive to restrict the First Amendment rights of veterans when they have fought and sacrificed to defend those rights.

VA Deputy General Counsel, John H. (Jack) Thompson, in a letter to the Liberty Institute, wrote that directors of national cemeteries can apply whatever limitations they deem reasonable. I vehemently disagree. As a defender of this great nation, you are well aware that no individual or government agency has the authority to restrict the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

I am so appalled with these developments that I intend to amend the MilCon/VA Appropriations Bill to reinforce Judge Hughes’ order and ensure that the First Amendment rights of veterans and their families are protected at each and every VA facility.

Thank you for complying with my requests in a timely manner.

Sincerely,

John Culberson

Member of Congress

http://culberson.house.gov/congressman-culbersons-letter-to-va-sec-shinseki/

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Temporary Restraining Order issued by Judge Hughes for Scott Rainey vs. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Arleen Ocasio

Memorial Day began as a regular observance to honor the 300,000 who died fighting for the Union. It has expanded to honor all of those who have given the United States “the last full measure of devotion.” This year, as in past years, a charity has proposed to conduct a ceremony on Memorial Day. It is the National Cemetery Council of Greater Houston.

The director of Houston’s National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, required the ministers who are scheduled to deliver the invocation and benediction to submit their prayers to her for approval. The minister who has prayed as part of the program in other years is Scott Rainey. This year he is to give the invocation. Rainey promptly sent his draft prayer to Ocasio. She responded that the tone “must be inclusive of all beliefs . . . non-denominational.” Rainey called her, and she told him that if he did not remove the reference to one religion, he would not be allowed to pray.

Rainey appealed her decree to the general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs. John H. (Jack) Thompson, a deputy of his, gave the celebrants until three o’clock this afternoon to consent to the deletions of references to specific religions – an act he said would make it non-denominational when he meant non-religious. He asserted the government’s “discretion” to keep prayers “fitting.”

Along with funerals and private visits, veterans’ cemeteries are the sites for observances on broader occasions like V-J Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. These events come in two categories: government paid and privately paid. When the tax payers directly fund a program, it may generally decide who may participate and what they may say, just as it may require its employees to talk about work, not sports. The government may require people invited to talk about highway funding not to talk about international trade. Beyond that narrow, practical proprietary interest, the government may not dictate what people say. The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity. The right to free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Charlie Sheen’s rants.

Thompson told the pastor that “the ceremony will commemorate veterans of all cultures and beliefs, and the tone of remarks must therefore be inclusive.” The government’s compulsion of a program’s inclusion or exclusion of a particular religion offends the Constitution. The Constitution does not confide to the government the authority to compel emptiness in a prayer, where a prayer belongs. The gray mandarins of the national government are decreeing how citizens honor their veterans. This is not a pick-up-your-trash sign; this is a we-pick-your-words sign.

These people say that remarks need to be content-neutral messages. The men buried in the cemetery fought for their fellow Americans – for us. In those fights, they were served by chaplains, chaplains of two faiths and many denominations, chaplains in the field.

They ministered to men who needed them – to all – not only to their personal calling. No deputy general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs was in the Ia Drang Valley. The veteran may be Jewish and his friends may be Christians – or Christians, atheists, Moslems, pagans, Shinto, and Sikh. “Friends,” of course, means all who appreciate what they did.

The government cannot realistically speak for the religious sensibilities of the numerous and varied people of America, even if it were constitutional for it to try. It is for them to speak for themselves as when the President asked Rick Warren to speak for him in Jesus’ name at his inauguration. Americans are free – free to read, write, talk, and pray without permission from George III or other governmental power.

1. Reasons.

These are the reasons to enjoin the government:

A. Rainey is likely to prevail on his claims that the government is unconstitutionally censoring his speech. The government only objects that his message contains religious references. Rainey weaves religion among the day’s subjects. The law protects Rainey’s speech;

B. Not allowing Rainey to invoke Jesus’ name or refer to his religious beliefs will irreparably harm him. Limiting a person’s freedoms of speech and religion is an irreparable injury. Money cannot replace the freedom he would lose;

C. The unrepresented public will not be harmed if the government is enjoined, but Rainey will be harmed if he is forced to omit his religious beliefs from the invocation; and

D. The law protects all people’s Constitutional rights, including Rainey’s Constitutional rights.

2. Temporary Restraint.

Arleen Ocasio, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and all those in concert with them are forbidden from dictating the content of speeches – whether those speeches are denominated prayers or otherwise – at the Memorial Day ceremony of National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston. The government is cautioned that interferences for this suit’s having been brought would be a further Constitutional violation.

Signed on May 26, 2011, at Houston, Texas.

Lynn N. Hughes

United States District Judge


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Brazil
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very sad state of affairs when one can't even be sent off to the great yonder without some idiot causing lawsuits.


* ~ * Charles * ~ *
 

I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.

 

USE THE REPORT BUTTON INSTEAD OF MESSAGING A MODERATOR!

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Filed: Country: Belarus
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very sad state of affairs when one can't even be sent off to the great yonder without some idiot causing lawsuits.

My dad is buried at Houston VA National Cemetery. Our country is going to hell in a handbasket when this kind of ####### comes from our government.


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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Country: Vietnam
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My dad is buried at Houston VA National Cemetery. Our country is going to hell in a handbasket when this kind of ####### comes from our government.

My dad and Nephew are also buried there and I go every few months to visit them and their friends. Ms. Ocasio is very wrong and her stubbornness in persisting in this shows her as being evil.

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Filed: AOS (pnd) Country: Canada
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Oh this is just ridiculous.


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The Great Canadian to Texas Transfer Timeline:

2/22/2010 - I-129F Packet Mailed

2/24/2010 - Packet Delivered to VSC

2/26/2010 - VSC Cashed Filing Fee

3/04/2010 - NOA1 Received!

8/14/2010 - Touched!

10/04/2010 - NOA2 Received!

10/25/2010 - Packet 3 Received!

02/07/2011 - Medical!

03/15/2011 - Interview in Montreal! - Approved!!!

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Filed: Country: Belarus
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Oh this is just ridiculous.

Look for more ####### such as this. The LWNs will try to get as much of their lame agenda in place before Obama is thrown out in 2012. Be vigilant because the lunatic fringe will try to get as many licks in as they can before the American people wise up to the mistake they made hiring Obama.


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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Filed: Lift. Cond. (apr) Country: Egypt
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It won't be long before mentioning the name G-d will be considered a hate crime. Seems to be heading in that direction. With liberty and justice...for some, I guess.


Don't just open your mouth and prove yourself a fool....put it in writing.

It gets harder the more you know. Because the more you find out, the uglier everything seems.

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Filed: Lift. Cond. (apr) Country: Spain
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Pretty soon the Communists will begin collecting bodily fluids by law.

On this topic, it seems there will be new openings at this facility in due time. Pretty crazy if its being characterized correctly here (there are doubts about that).

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