After going to the V.A. yesterday, I was a little upset when I found them putting ticket stations at the entrance to all the parking lots.
It seems that they are going to start charging everyone that parks in hospital lots. If you want to get into the parking lot, you will have to pay! That sucks BIG TIME...!
However, something that is a much bigger issue is working there right now. This story from the Chronicle will explain it better than I could!
VA cemetery accused of censoring religious speechBy LINDSAY WISE
Copyright 2011 HOUSTON CHRONICLE
June 28, 2011, 8:06PM
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 N. 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.
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.
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,” Jacobsen 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.
A standing-room only crowd jammed a federal courtroom in downtown Houston 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.
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?”
I don't want to even comment on this story, but I would be interested in what you think about it! Just shows how out of hand things are getting in some areas, ya know?
Let's get some fresh coffee and sit on the patio. We really need to talk this over!