Houston VA accused of censoring religious speech

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Houston VA cemetery director, Arleen Ocasio, is openly hostile toward religion. In this article, she is accused of directing volunteers (not employees, but volunteers) to refrain from references to God. She has, also according to this article, closed the cemetery’s chapel, removed the Bibles from it, and now refers to it as a “meeting facility,” only opening it when there are meetings or training sessions conducted inside of it.
Local veterans and volunteer groups accuse Department of Veterans Affairs officials of censoring religious speech — including the word “God” - at Houston National Cemetery.

In one example cited in documents filed this week in federal court, cemetery director Arleen Ocasio reportedly told volunteers with the National Memorial Ladies that they had to stop telling families “God bless you” at funerals and that they had to remove the words “God bless” from condolence cards.

(snip)

According to court documents, Ocasio banned veterans organizations and volunteer groups from using certain religious words such as “God” or “Jesus,” censored the content of prayer and forbade the use of religious messages in burial rituals unless the deceased’s family submitted the text for prior approval.

The documents allege that VA prohibited volunteer honor guards from providing optional recitations to families for consideration, and that when burial teams conduct military honors for a veteran’s funeral, a government official monitors what is said.
Of course, these veterans and volunteer groups could be making this up out of whole cloth.

And I could fathom Ocasio banning paid VA employees from religious references. But to ban volunteers from doing so? Again, I could even see the volunteer group being given guidance to ask the families of the deceased their preferences as to whether or not any deity is mentioned. But this level of restriction? (only allowing text submitted for approval by a family without any kind of prompting…and then having a government official there to ensure that nothing that violates policy is said)

One thing for certain, I will not be using my VA benefits when it comes time to be buried. Next time I update my will, I will write that restriction in.

Just another reason to be proud to be an American. (/sarc)

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