Theodore's World: Obama's Department of Veterans Affairs At Fault! VA in Houston Bans Word's Lilke "God", "God Bless You", At Funerals!

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June 30, 2011

Obama's Department of Veterans Affairs At Fault! VA in Houston Bans Word's Lilke "God", "God Bless You", At Funerals!

American Legion member Willie Beck discusses the federal lawsuit against the Houston National Cemetery and the VA after a hearing on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes.

The VA in Houston has banned using offensive words like “God,” “God bless you” and “God bless” at the Houston National Cemetery.

Chron. Houston, Texas

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?"


Wild Thing's comment.......

Obama and his administration need to be tried for TREASON!!!!!! And punished to the max!!!!

Obama's administration is at it again, but looks like the Houston judge is not buying.

"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."

Information on this Obama bitch! I never used the language I have used since obama became president. BUT honestly it is the only way I can let some of this tremendous anger out. I have such a rage toward everything he does, and everyone and everything connected to him.

Houston VA Cemetery Number (303) 914-5700

Regional Director VA Cemetery (281) 447-8686

Arleen Ocasio phone onumber 281-447-8686 (extension 206)

and her e-mail her at

Posted by Wild Thing at June 30, 2011 05:55 AM


Telling families they can't pray at funerals or make any reference to God? Allowing sodomites to marry and join our armed forces. I hate to say it folks but if you think the "natural" disasters which have and are plaguing America have been bad, we haven't seen nothing yet.

"If God doesn't soon bring judgment upon America, He'll have to go back and apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!" ...Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham

Posted by: BobF at June 30, 2011 10:43 AM

President Obama in his Inaugural Address said,"We are about to TRANSFORM the way this Country operates", or something to that effect.

Here, we have another case of this actually happening.

This Administration has been attacking American traditions in every area since the get go.

The framers of the Constitution have to be spinning in their graves. This Nation was formed and founded upon the principal of Religious Freedom for all. Up until January 20,2008, that continued to be one of the Cornerstones of Liberty, that we could count on.

The gang of Obama, Soros,Ayers, Holder and the rest of the Czars and Traitors in this Administration are guilty of committing treasonous acts, almost on a daily basis. Yet few citizens are aware of what is going on, because the MSM is complicit in all of this.

We have to stay strong.Less than 400 days until we get rid of these maggots.

Posted by: Sean at June 30, 2011 10:45 AM

Oops, should have written, Jan.20,2009, in erlier post.

Posted by: Sean at June 30, 2011 10:51 AM

Bob, I agree, our country has kicked God out of so many things. Great quote by Ruth Graham. Thank you.

Posted by: Wild Thing at July 1, 2011 02:37 AM

Sean, thank you for that great input, well said.

Posted by: Wild Thing at July 1, 2011 02:38 AM