Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Doesn't Seem Right...!


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 speech
By 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?”

lindsay.wise@chron.com

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!

21 comments:

sel said...

I am sorry to say that after having lived in the bay area of houston for the last twelve years I have no idea where the veteran's cemetery is located. Guess there are too many people who can say that. This story just enforces my opinion of the direction this country is headed. We can burn our flag but can't use the name of our God. Wow. Well someday everyone will say it!!

HermitJim said...

Hey Sel...
A lot of folks don't know where it is, but you make a good point of where this country is headed.

It's a shame that someone like this is able to make the rules!

I really appreciate you coming by today!

Spud said...

Once freedom of speech is gone, all other rights will be history.

As a combat vet. I refuse to fly the flag of my country now. I have not been proud of this countries actions for quite some time. Sad, so very sad that it has come to this point.

In fact I question the patriotism of those that do fly it. Just what has our country done lately to be proud of ?

Ben in Texas said...

Sounds to me like someone needs to take ole Ocasio out back and explain to him in no uncertain terms that this is the US and our veterans are honored here. Whether they are of the Christan religion or Jewish or for that matter ANY religion.Even the heathen Muslims. the Constitution mentions this fact don't it?

That nut job needs gone ASAP,, need someone to escort him out of town? Contact These guys http://www.patriotguard.org/

Anonymous said...

That is so sad, PC has gone completely out of control. Things are getting crazier and crazier every day.

Keep an eye out on the Gulf sir, some trouble afoot out there. Possible storm, maybe hurricane. Got this from Craigs site, just be careful is all I'm recommending.

Baby Sis said...

Bubba -

I have attended memorial services at the VA Cemetery, in the northwest part of Houston, off Beltway 8. It's a lovely place, and until yesterday had planned to have my own and SAC vet Hubby's ashes interred there. Several friends who are Blue Star Mothers and I intend to give Ted Poe and our other elected "reps" a good piece of our minds this Independence Day weekend. I'm dressed in my traditional red, white, and blue, wearing my DAR pin today, and I'm hurting and mad at the same time. I'm with Ben - this is not what our vets fought for, nor what our country was founded on. This is one issue on which I will not be silent. GOD BLESS AMERICA - we need it today!

Big hugs -

Sixbears said...

It's a sad world when words of comfort are banned.

JoJo said...

FREEDOM OF SPEECH!
I wonder what faith that fool is if any at all.

Momlady said...

Perhaps it's time for a revolution? I have an idea....what if NO ONE paid their taxes?

Ted said...

Jim I'm on my way to Choctaw to donate made me think of Denison, Texas.sister city status for Denison and Cognac, France.Interesting piece of trivia.
Look it up.

SciFiChick said...

Is this what we have become? So "PC" that we cannot even give our condolences to the families of our Soldiers? I am saddened more than I can even express here. Have we lost all our values as American's to this thing they call political correctness?

HermitJim said...

Hey Spud...
It's certainly not the same country I grew up in!

Things are getting so out of hand that I just want to turn my back on the whole mess! However, like my baby Sis says, someone has to stand up and cry "enough"!

Thanks for coming by today!


Hey Ben...
Not the first time this jerk has been in hot water with the Vet groups!

You would think that the PTB would get smart and hide this idiot in a closet somewhere!

However, she'll probably get a huge bonus, a corner office, and be awarded some medal by the government!

I get the feeling we are in serious, serious trouble!

Thanks, buddy, for coming by today!


Hey Anon 6:53...
Don't worry! I'm watching the gulf pretty close!

I have a very bad feeling about this storm season!

I thank you for coming by this morning!

judysquiltsandthings said...

What a bunch of dumb-asses! I will shut-up there!

TROUBLEnTX said...

NO ONE will EVER tell me what i can and can't say! This country needs a cleaning of idiots like that. Let's do it! And God Bless You. Did u read BBs blog today? Another horrible wrong done. No wonder our nation's children grow up so confused.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sis...
I am so glad that I at least have a blog to spout off about these type of things!

Next thing you know, wearing the red, white, and blue will be outlawed!

You know, that island is looking better and better!

I appreciate it, Sis!


Hey Sixbears...
Pretty damned sad, isn't it? Besides, politicians should be banned from having anything to do with how we treat and respect our fallen!

Makes me sick to my stomach!

Thanks for dropping in today, buddy!


Hey JoJo...
Slowly they are chipping away at our freedoms and trying to make us into what they consider "proper" followers of their rules!

Not going to happen!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming by today!


Hey Momlady...
The phrase "starve the monkeys" has been tossed around more and more as of late!

Someone needs to do something! I think that maybe WE are the someone!

I really appreciate you coming by today!


Hey Ted...
Thanks for the info! I'll look it up!

Thanks also for coming by today!


Hey Scifi...
It's scary and saddening at the same time!

I think that things are getting totally out of hand!

I do believe that some kind of action is called for!

Many thanks for coming by today!

thecottagebythecranelakeolof1 said...

How very strange?! I mean even if the person You say it to has another religion it´s a way of showing that You care! And they can also see it as a wish of they getting blessed by their god. Can´t really understand this to be honest.

We have to pay at hospital parking lots as well now days, I get angry every time I have to do that. My hospital doesn´t even lay close to the city so no one parks there to save money and walk in to the city!

Have a great day!
Christer.

Stephen said...

In a nutshell, this isn't the same country into which I was born sixty years ago. What a shame words cannot reverse the changes of the last thirty or so years. And, God bless you.

HermitJim said...

Hey Judy...
Not much that can be said about something like this! That's one reason I didn't want to get off on a tear when I posted it!

I really appreciate you coming by today!


Hey Trouble...
Everywhere you look, something like this is going on! What the hell is happening to the country we all grew up with?

Trying to shut some of us up is certainly NOT a good idea!

Many thanks for coming by today!


Hey Christer...
I guess that the hospitals are just trying to make some money, but it doesn't make much sense to me!

Enough money is going to be made by the cost of whatever treatment is given anyhow!

Sad, really sad!

Thanks, my friend, for coming over today!


Hey Stephen...
At 66, I know exactly what you mean! We would have called anyone a liar if we were told back then what would be going on today!

It just boggles the mind!

Thank you for coming over today!

edifice rex said...

“I did all this for my country and you are going to tell me what I can and can’t say?”

I think that veteran's words say it all. I agree with all the other sentiments expressed here. How sad our nation has become.

HermitJim said...

Hey ER...
Sad is the only word I can think of to describe it.

Thanks, girl, for coming by today!

Bob from Athens said...

I feel like I have just been slapped in the face by a baseball bat!! I willingly put my life on the line for this country and all it's citizens time after time, had a lot of good friends that came home in a bag just so all of us could say things like this when and wherever we wanted!! Where in the HELL is the ACLU, why haven't they stuck their nose into this a-hole's face and told him all about freedom of speech?

Sorry for getting carried away, but sometimes things just have to be said.