‘A welcome breath of fresh air’
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has brought a “breath of fresh air” to its practices by allowing “religious literature, symbols and displays at VA facilities,” according to First Liberty Institute.
FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes noted a VA medical center in Augusta, Georgia, had banned high school carolers from singing Christmas songs containing religious references in public areas of the hospital.
In Iowa City, American Legion volunteers said they could not hand out gifts to veterans if the wrapping paper included “Merry Christmas.”
And the Dallas VA medical center refused to accept the delivery of handwritten Christmas cards from local school children because the cards contained phrases such as “God Bless You.”
At the time, American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger pointed out, “Christians are more and more often targeted for censorship and restriction at VA facilities.
He said the decision “to prohibit the delivery of Christmas cards that mention Christmas is ludicrous.”
But now the VA has announced a change in policy to allow “the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities.”
The VA will “allow patients and their guests to request and be provided religious literature, symbols and sacred texts during visits to VA chapels and during their treatment at VA” and “allow VA to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.”
The intent of the new policy is to protect religious liberty for veterans and their families.
“We want to make sure that all of our veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These important changes will bring simplicity and clarity to our policies governing religious and spiritual symbols, helping ensure we are consistently complying with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at thousands of facilities across the department.”
“This new VA policy is a welcome breath of fresh air,” said Mike Berry, director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute. “On the eve of our nation’s Independence Day, this is the perfect time to honor our veterans by protecting the religious freedom for which they fought and sacrificed. The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of religious displays with historic roots such as those commonly found in VA facilities. We commend the VA for taking this necessary and positive action.”
The institute had sent a letter only weeks ago urging the VA to fix its practices. That came after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging a POW/MIA Remembrance display at the Manchester VA Medical Center because it included a Bible.