In what appears to be an emotionally charged battle between fraternal military organizations — such as The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars — and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the name of Jesus is being caught in the verbal crossfire.
"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:
VAForbids 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 U.S. 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 and 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.
Yesterday’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.
Jim Kouri, CPP, formerly Fifth Vice-President, is currently a Board Member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, an editor for ConservativeBase.com, and he’s a columnist for Examiner.com. In addition, he’s a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc.
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