Is the Department of Veteran’s Affair’s banning the use of God at Military Funerals?

It’s the greatest war that America has ever fought, or so we are told by droves of right wing commentators — it’s the war on religion. Or is it the war on Christmas? Or the war on Easter? Or the war on little fuzzy slippers we wear while we walk the dog?

Either way, the battle lines have been drawn, and the “warriors” are doing all they can to desperately pull the rest of us into their petty little myth of a battle against the greatest enemy of all: reality.

My case in point, I stumbled across this little posting on one of my friend’s Facebook this morning and instantly knew it for what it was, more of this bullshit being tossed around in this mythical “war on religion”.

The title of the Facebook “cause” is, as always, “alarming”:

Stop the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from banning the Word ‘God’ from Military Funerals!!

The long and short of this appears to involve the Director of Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, who has allegedly “banned” the use of God during Military Funerals. Finding this to be more than a little outrageous, I dug deeper.
Here’s what I’ve learned from some quick research…
1) The matter appears to have begun about two years ago when a family burying a loved one had specifically requested no references to Christianity be used on the grave marker.
2) There are volunteers called the “Memorial Ladies” who assist the Cemetery during its many Military Funerals. Apparently, members of this group, in offering its condolences used the word God and the family involved was offended and complained to the Facility.

3) Director Ocasio instructed the volunteers to refrain from using Christian terms unless they knew the families faith. From a VA letter released last summer:

…Subsequently, defendant Ocasio asked the Memorial Ladies to endeavor to respect particular family members religious preferences, and to provide only general condolences without religious reference unless the Memorial Ladies were aware of a family’s religious preference and expressions of a specific religious nature would be appropriate.

4) The Liberty Institute has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a local VFW and American Legion, as well as the Memorial Ladies in Federal Court, seeking to alter the policy in Houston.

5) VA Press Secretary Josh Taylor released the following statement: “Invoking the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed, it is common at VA National Cemeteries across the country. However, VA’s policy is that VA-sponsored honor guards should not make recitations at commital services unless requested to do so by the deceased’s survivor(s.) Taylor also directed FOX 26 to a little known policy dated 2007. It says Honor Guards “shall not provide texts of any such recitations to the deceased’s survivors for consideration.

6) According to the Fox report, this appears to be isolated to the Houston Cemetery. In the United States, there are 131 National Cemeteries, with an additional thirty-three similar facilities, soldiers lots or memorials.

So, what does this all mean?

This fuss seems to have started when a family burying a loved one at the Houston National Cemetery complained that their wishes were ignored with regard to no references to Christianity being a part of their ceremonies that day. Someone from one of the volunteers groups assisting with the funeral said something that included a reference to “god” which offended the family. They complained to the Veteran’s Administration.

The VA, in response, basically said let’s err on the side of caution. On those very rare occurrences where we don’t know the wishes of the family or we’ve been told to leave references to Christian symbols out of that family’s funeral, we’ll use a generic expression of condolence.

Which is exactly what they should do.

People need to get it through their thick freakin’ skulls that “freedom of religion” does not equate to “the freedom to impose your religious beliefs on others”.

This is one isolated case where a soldier’s family didn’t want to have a religious group participating in or any religious elements present in their loved one’s funeral.

Rather than do the decent thing and let it be, this little group of bible thumpers has to get all butt hurt and turn it into another bogus example of the “war on religion”.

If the volunteers want to serve their country by assisting at Military funerals, that’s commendable. They don’t however get to decide what gets said at these ceremonies.

If they have a problem with that then they need to keep their asses at home. End of story.


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