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  • Veterans' Groups Win Right to Religious Freedom

    Last week, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement that will help ensure that religious freedom is respected at the Houston National Cemetery and other national cemeteries around the country.

    Several veterans groups, represented by the Texas-based Liberty Institute, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) agreed to a consent decree that requires the VA to acknowledge the religious freedom rights of veterans’ groups and families and allow the inclusion of religious language and prayers in military burials.

    The rifle salute, the solemn playing of Taps, and the presentation of the folded flag to family members are important, iconic rituals of a military funeral. During many veterans’ burials, volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) also include recitation of a prayer and express condolences to the families of the deceased. At the Houston National Cemetery, however, mere mention of such unauthorized religious sentiment has been met with increasing official hostility and censorship.

    The VFW District 4 performs the core elements of a traditional military burial during dozens of veterans’ funerals at the Houston National Cemetery each month. Recently, however, the cemetery’s administrators have balked at the VFW’s recitation of a prayer that has been part of the burial ritual for almost 100 years. According to the new cemetery policy, only family members could request that a prayer be said at a burial, and even then, the cemetery’s director must approve the recitation.

    Likewise, the cemetery’s administrators have prohibited volunteers from the National Memorial Ladies (NML) from handing out condolence cards to families that include the phrase “God bless you.” The NML is a recently formed nonprofit whose members attend burials to, in their own words, “honor veterans and console their families.” Antagonism by cemetery administrators to religious sentiment forced at least one woman to move her husband’s funeral to a private chapel so that the VFW could perform the full burial rites.

    This wasn’t the first time the Houston National Cemetery found itself in hot water over prohibiting religious expression. Earlier this year, it took a court-ordered injunction to allow Pastor Scott Rainey to include the words Jesus Christ in a prayer at the cemetery’s Memorial Day service.

    Frustrated by the religious censorship of the cemetery’s leadership, the local chapters of the VFW, the American Legion Post, and the NML joined the Rainey suit against the VA this summer. The final settlement seeks to ensure that the cemetery allows groups to honor the sacrifice of fallen soldiers with prayers for them and their loved ones.

    Among the 50 decrees ordered this week, the VA agreed “not to edit, control, or exercise prior restraints on the content of private religious speech and expression by speakers” at Houston National Cemetery. As Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute, points out, “The decree not only impacts religious freedoms in Houston, but at all VA cemeteries nationwide because the government has agreed to modify two national policies hostile to religion.”

    Altering those national VA policies specifically seeks to prevent encroachments on the religious freedom of speakers at special ceremonies and events at any VA cemetery.

    Attempts by government administrators to whitewash any religious sentiment from the funeral services of veterans, especially when family members expect the full burial ritual, distort the design of American religious freedom and misconstrue the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of—not from—religion.

    As Heritage’s Jennifer Marshall explains about the American model of religious freedom:

    Far from privatizing religion, it assumes that religious believers and institutions will take active roles in society.… In fact, the American Founders considered religious engagement in shaping the public morality essential to ordered liberty and the success of their experiment in self-government.

    Nowhere is the recognition of that religious liberty more appropriate than at the memorials of those who served to sustain this self-governing society.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Veterans' Groups Win Right to Religious Freedom

    1. duane says:

      I feel that Goverment has gotton it all wrong with what the founding fathers were working towards as far as religious freedom was ment to be. The supreme Court has also admited to that. It only states that the goverment will not force a religon upon us. Nothing else get it right for once. You can pratice any religion you want as far as im concerned as long as it is not forced onto me or cause injury to someone. also they have to be respectful to everyone elses rights also.

      • guest says:

        Christians and Jews have always been respectful of others rights. It's only been in the past 5 years or so that the radical left have become emboldened enough to re-interpret the Constitution, and try banning all religious expression from the Public Square. That is what China has done, and look at how their people have to live. Under brutal oppression that disallows freedom to think and worship as you choose.

      • Gringo Infidel says:

        Concur but I know it to be so.

    2. Ross says:

      So, now it takes a judge to guarantee religous freedom? What about the Constitution? If this judge had decided to rule the opposite way, I, for one would feel the need for civil disobedience or any other means to let the powwers that be that we are so close to throwing them all out, that they better learn to listen to the people- all of the people. Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics or none of the above. The breaking point is getting closer every time we read or hear of the ruling class imposing their will on the rest of us.

      • lights on says:

        Some people feel they should be given more attention to their foreign religion that the decency and respect of the American Constitution would never specify to show bias. Immigrants that chose to live here, won't accept this common respect of the American Constitution! Everyone else knows their place! DEPORT this foreign religion of intolerance!

        The unconstitutional president supports them, favors them and permits sacrifice on the rest of us, for them…

    3. Fran says:

      Where is the end to this take over of our freedoms! Since the majority of us in the USA believe in God, I feel it is time to have those who find fault and want to have lawsuits on everything our Constitution outlined including religious freedom to go somewhere else to live. They need to do their own things quietly and let the majority of us enjoy our freedoms. This country is becoming more like the Soviets every day. Most Americans, regardless of faith–Christian, Jews and others appreciate our freedoms and want each to worship in his/her own way. ACLU and others find something worthwhile to do besides torment the majority of Americans.

    4. Andrew says:

      We do not get our rights from the courts or Big Government; they come to us from the Creator!!!

      • Bill Perkins says:

        Andrew our creator gave "WE The People" the desire to be free. That is why we the people "Veterans"fight for these rights and it cost us dearly; but Our Creator is the only source of forgiveness that can forgive us for the scars that war leaves.

    5. Lisa says:

      How sad that we now require our court system to protect the religious rights of our veterans who fought to protect — our religious rights.

    6. Bill Perkins says:

      The implementation of anti religous orders and socilist state laws without proper congressional approval has proven to be the first and foremost mission of Barack Obama and his high priest Attorney General Eric Holder. Just as Ruby Ridge and Waco Koersh Compound was handled wromg by Holder, he now has loose reigns to try to control state laws and threaten them just as he threatened Alabama yesterday. I hear nothing from the Republicans that even resembles resistance; ask yourself why and you might get on the right road to figuring out what is happening to America the Beautiful.

    7. blvd says:

      The onslaught against Constitutional freedoms by the outlaw Obama regime (not an administration of laws!) is breath taking. Impeachment is mandatory for every govt agent involved in implementing these atrocities.

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