VA Settles with Veteran’s Groups at Houston National Cemetery

Last week, the Veteran’s Administration agreed to settle the lawsuit regarding censorship of freedom of speech and freedom of religion at the Houston National Cemetery.

Photo by Michael Stravato of the New York Times

To recap, my previous article entitled God Bless Our Military … Just Not At The Houston National Cemetery, shared how the Houston National Cemetery Director, Ms. Arlene Ocasio, was requiring grieving families and volunteer groups to not use the words “God” or “Jesus” at any funeral ceremony without her prior approval.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also defended Ms. Arlene Ocasio stating the accusations in the lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs and Ms. Arleen Ocasio were “categorically false.”  Local elected officials complained and Congressman John Culberson, U.S. Representative of Texas District 7, took it upon himself to go undercover at a military hero’s funeral and found the truth. He personally witnessed the censorship of freedom of speech and freedom of religion at the funerals of our veterans. Read about his experience here.

Late last week, Houston Chronicle’s Lindsey Wise shared the following terms to the settlement that were agreed to by the mediating parties.  These terms are currently awaiting Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips’ sign off:

  • The VA will not interfere with prayers during burial services.
  • The VA will not edit or control the speeches of speakers at ceremonies or events at the cemetery containing religious messages or viewpoints and cannot ban religious words in verbal communications between the volunteers and veteran’s families.
  • The VA will not ban religious speech or words like “God” or “Jesus” in condolence cards or gifts.
  • Payment by the VA of the veterans groups’ $215,000 in legal fees.
  • The VA will have a Bible, Cross and Star of David placed on an open shelf within the Chapel, that will be easily accessible and available for use by families if they so choose.
  • The local members of VFW District 4 and Houston National Memorial Ladies would resign their positions as official VA volunteers. They will be free to provide their own texts of recitations to funeral homes so that veterans’ families can decide if they would like these groups to provide any services at the cemetery.
While many have asked for the resignation of Houston National Cemetery Directory Arleen Ocasio, the status of her position is not addressed in this agreement.  Hmm.

Full details of the settlement can be found at the jump here. While the parties involved are not yet commenting on the settlement terms as the judge has yet to sign off on the agreement, I see this as a victory for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  I also believe it’s really sad a lawsuit had to be filed for rights highlighted in our Constitution. This is yet another sign of the sad times we’re in, but our faith will remain strong.

Listen.  As I’ve said previously, if you choose not to pray, that’s your choice. I respect all faiths and beliefs so I won’t force mine on you and you don’t force yours on me. Americans should be able to pray as they wish, when they wish, and if they wish, without the permission or supervision of any government entity or any person for that matter. And should those grieving families wish to have the VFW Honor Guard, the Houston National Memorial Ladies or any other volunteers there to help in their greatest time of need for support, they should be able to do so too.

Please continue to help our military and their families by supporting one or more of the following wonderful organizations:

Thanks to the Liberty Institute for helping these groups.  And many thanks to all of you who have called, emailed and voiced your support to the veterans.  Without them, we wouldn’t be the greatest nation on the planet.  God Bless America and may God continue to bless our military!

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