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But what about that "Congress shall make no law" phrase? by texasfiero
Started on: 06-29-2011 08:14 PM
Replies: 12
Last post by: frontal lobe on 07-01-2011 09:36 AM
texasfiero
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Report this Post06-29-2011 08:14 PM Click Here to See the Profile for texasfieroClick Here to Email texasfieroSend a Private Message to texasfieroDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
VA accused of censoring religious speech at cemetery | Houston & Texas News | Chron.com

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.

"It's just unfair that somebody would ask us to take God out of our vocabulary," said Cheryl Whitfield, founder of Houston National Memorial Ladies.

"I could've kept my mouth shut and let things happen, but when it comes to standing up for your belief in God and giving comfort to the families, I don't want to regret not saying anything," Whitfield said. "We all had to stand up for what we believe in."

The new allegations of "religious hostility" by VA and cemetery officials follow on the heels of a controversy over Pastor Scott Rainey's prayer in Jesus' name at a Memorial Day service in the cemetery.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled May 26 that the government couldn't stop Rainey from using the words "Jesus Christ" in his invocation. Hughes issued a temporary restraining order to prevent VA from censoring Rainey's prayer.
Discrimination alleged

Attorneys with the nonprofit Liberty Institute, which represented Rainey, filed an amended complaint this week after allegedly finding other instances of religious discrimination by cemetery officials against members of The American Legion Post 586, Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4 and the National Memorial Ladies, a volunteer group that attends funerals of fallen service members.

The complaint accuses VA of "a widespread and consistent practice of discriminating against private religious speech" at the cemetery.

Ocasio is on vacation and could not be reached for comment. Her assistant, Amanda Rhodes-Wharton, said she could not discuss the matter due to ongoing litigation.

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.
Chapel a 'meeting facility'

Court documents also describe the closure of the cemetery's chapel after Ocasio's appointment as director two years ago.

"The doors remain locked during Houston National Cemetery operating hours, the cross and the Bible have been removed, and the Chapel bells, which tolled at least twice a day, are now inoperative," the complaint reads. "Director Ocasio only unlocks the chapel doors when meetings or training sessions are held at the building. Furthermore, it is no longer called a 'chapel' but a 'meeting facility.' "

VA spokeswoman Jessica Jacobsen confirmed the chapel is closed but she said it has nothing to do with the litigation. "It was closed prior to Memorial Day, and it was closed because of construction," she said.

The chapel is scheduled to reopen in September when construction is complete, she said.

Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute, doesn't buy that explanation. The chapel's closure predates any construction, he said.
Judge grills VA's attorney

A standing-room only crowd jammed a federal courtroom in downtown Houston on Tuesday afternoon for a status conference on the case. White-haired vets lined the pews, decked out in honor guard uniforms or blue blazers decorated with American flag lapel pins. Crammed next to them were people wearing T-shirts emblazoned with eagles and Old Glory, and women costumed in the trademark black vests and white blouses of the Memorial Ladies.

Judge Hughes denied the government's motion to dismiss the case, but not before upbraiding VA's attorney, Fred Hinrichs, for being unable to answer his questions.

When Hughes asked whether the chapel was open, Hinrichs said he didn't know.

"Why not?" the judge shot back. "A phone call to the cemetery could ascertain if that is true or not."

"Yes, your honor," the attorney said.

"So the VA has been investigating for a month and hasn't come to any conclusions?" the judge pressed.

Hinrichs said some of the claims in the complaint aren't factually correct, but he wasn't prepared to give specifics.

"I don't know that they're true," the judge said, "but an afternoon on Veterans Memorial Drive and you should be able to document most of this stuff."

He gave the government until July 21 to investigate and respond to the claims in the complaint.
Veteran feels belittled

After the hearing, Vietnam veteran Nobleton Jones spoke up at a Liberty Institute press conference.

Jones said he has presented shell casings from the gun salute to veterans' grieving family members at funerals in Houston National Cemetery for the past three years.

But after a burial ceremony May 16, Jones said a government official told him he could no longer recite the words he always says when he hands over the shells: "We ask that God grant you and your family grace, mercy and peace."

The 66-year-old Houstonian said he felt belittled.

"That makes me feel smaller, even after I spent my time in the military, fighting so that people should be able to say that," he said.

"I did all this for my country and you are going to tell me what I can and can't say?"

lindsay.wise@chron.com

Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/s...7.html#ixzz1QiIqvXiF
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Formula88
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Report this Post06-29-2011 08:39 PM Click Here to See the Profile for Formula88Send a Private Message to Formula88Direct Link to This Post
What law passed by Congress mandated this?
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spark1
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Report this Post06-29-2011 10:55 PM Click Here to See the Profile for spark1Send a Private Message to spark1Direct Link to This Post
Maybe it's just another one of those "under the radar" things.
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texasfiero
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Report this Post06-30-2011 10:48 AM Click Here to See the Profile for texasfieroClick Here to Email texasfieroSend a Private Message to texasfieroDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by Formula88:

What law passed by Congress mandated this?


Exactly, and she CHOSE to ignore the phrase following.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That seems to be the method for the current administration.
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Report this Post06-30-2011 11:30 AM Click Here to See the Profile for PyrthianClick Here to Email PyrthianSend a Private Message to PyrthianDirect Link to This Post
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

highlite the other part, and you see the answer

but - "God" by itself is vague, and can mean anyone of the fictitious characters, while "jesus" does narrow it down to one of the three Jew God religions.

having the military promote one particular religion is not allowed - but the members of the military should have freedom to worship as they choose. and that is where the problem lies. because how can a religous person, in that environment (cemetary) NOT call upon their faith (whatever it maybe)? The afterlife is key component to these superstitions. Heck - WTF is a cemetary for?

[This message has been edited by Pyrthian (edited 06-30-2011).]

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texasfiero
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Report this Post06-30-2011 11:44 AM Click Here to See the Profile for texasfieroClick Here to Email texasfieroSend a Private Message to texasfieroDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by Pyrthian:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

highlite the other part, and you see the answer

but - "God" by itself is vague, and can mean anyone of the fictitious characters, while "jesus" does narrow it down to one of the three Jew God religions.

having the military promote one particular religion is not allowed - but the members of the military should have freedom to worship as they choose. and that is where the problem lies. because how can a religous person, in that environment (cemetary) NOT call upon their faith (whatever it maybe)? The afterlife is key component to these superstitions. Heck - WTF is a cemetary for?



The military is NOT "promoting" a religion. It is families honoring fallen loved ones. What part does the Administration have in restricting how they choose to do it?

What part of "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" are you confusing with "establishment of religion"?
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Pyrthian
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Report this Post06-30-2011 11:53 AM Click Here to See the Profile for PyrthianClick Here to Email PyrthianSend a Private Message to PyrthianDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by texasfiero:
The military is NOT "promoting" a religion. It is families honoring fallen loved ones. What part does the Administration have in restricting how they choose to do it?

What part of "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" are you confusing with "establishment of religion"?


exactly what I said.

anyways - I think part of the problem is: (from article)
 
quote
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.


the director is NOT allowed to promote any particular religion. So, the director mistook his inability to speak such things to mean that no one should say such things. The director is wrong, or misinterpetting something. At least my guess at what is happening here. because you are 100% right that the families can worship as they see fit.


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frontal lobe
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Report this Post06-30-2011 12:18 PM Click Here to See the Profile for frontal lobeClick Here to Email frontal lobeSend a Private Message to frontal lobeDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by texasfiero:


What part of "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" are you confusing with "establishment of religion"?



They are volunteers but they are working at a federally funded site. So they could be considered representatives of the facility.

There is the potential that a volunteer could be a veteran that happened to be a muslim. That person, when handing over the shells, might recite, "We ask that Allah grant you and your family grace, mercy, and peace."

You could have a christian handing over shells to a jewish person, and might recite, "We ask that the Lord Jesus Christ grant you and your family grace, mercy, and peace."

In both cases, the recipient wouldn't probably be comforted by the statement as in both cases, the recipient probably wouldn't believe either was real. And they are in an emotionally raw state, possibly, because it IS a funeral, after all. So they could be upset by it.
In the examples, the person DID use the words "WE". Who is this WE? Well, the presenter, to be sure. But WE is more than one. Is the WE the VA? The NATIONAL cemetary?


So while I don't feel a statement like this REALLY preferentially establishes a favored religion, which is all the constitution prohibits, I do see the problem that some people would have.
pyrthian is right about the director being VERY wrong, and taking on WAY too much power and in doing so, infringing on constitutional rights.
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Report this Post06-30-2011 01:02 PM Click Here to See the Profile for TaijiguyClick Here to Email TaijiguySend a Private Message to TaijiguyDirect Link to This Post
Frankly, the *real* problem here is how everyone gets their panties in such a bunch over religion and religious statements. If someone says something to me that might be in conflict with my beliefs, I just accept it. My dad is Baptist, I'm not. He doesn't agree with my beliefs and finds it necessary to tell me that he'll pray for me. I *could* take it as an insult, but I choose not to. Why? Just because he wants the best for me? SO what if I don't agree, that's not what really matters. What really matters is that HE believes it, and it makes him feel better. It's no harm to me...so why get so worked up? If *everyone* would just stop being so damn touchy about everything, we wouldn't even have situations like this. Amazing that religion causes so much pain. I bet it just makes God all kinds of happy to see.
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frontal lobe
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Report this Post06-30-2011 01:54 PM Click Here to See the Profile for frontal lobeClick Here to Email frontal lobeSend a Private Message to frontal lobeDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by Taijiguy:

why get so worked up? If *everyone* would just stop being so damn touchy about everything, we wouldn't even have situations like this.



That is my general attitude about it, too.

The only thing in THIS situation is that people are already in a potentially touchy emotional state from being at the funeral of a loved one.
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Report this Post06-30-2011 10:19 PM Click Here to See the Profile for TaijiguyClick Here to Email TaijiguySend a Private Message to TaijiguyDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by frontal lobe:


That is my general attitude about it, too.

The only thing in THIS situation is that people are already in a potentially touchy emotional state from being at the funeral of a loved one.


That may be true, but what's so hard in any kind of state to just be able to recognize the intent isn't to cause distress, but is the other person's way of expressing their condolences and/or offering support in a way that they understand. God, it's just sooooooo much work trying not to offend *anyone*......

Personally, I don't worry about trying to save people from their own irrational sensitivities.
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Report this Post06-30-2011 10:35 PM Click Here to See the Profile for theBDubSend a Private Message to theBDubDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by Taijiguy:


God, it's just sooooooo much work trying not to offend *anyone*......



Please don't say that.
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frontal lobe
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Report this Post07-01-2011 09:36 AM Click Here to See the Profile for frontal lobeClick Here to Email frontal lobeSend a Private Message to frontal lobeDirect Link to This Post
 
quote
Originally posted by Taijiguy:


what's so hard in any kind of state to just be able to recognize the intent isn't to cause distress, but is the other person's way of expressing their condolences and/or offering support in a way that they understand. God, it's just sooooooo much work trying not to offend *anyone*......



Nothing is so hard about it for you and I.

And pick a percentage. 90% wouldn't find it hard? 95%? I don't know. But the 5 or 10% are the ones that are going to be offended, and if they choose to be offended, they are usually going to complain. And many are going to complain VOCIFEROUSLY, and then those are the ones that "management" are going to be likely to respond to.


None of this is right. I'm not agreeing with what was done. I'm just saying I understand where some of the people that are upset are coming from, and why something like this happens.
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