Posts Tagged ‘Houston National Cemetery’

Lawsuit Against VA Cemetary in Houston Settled

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Since Memorial Day the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Houston National Cemetery has faced allegations of attempting to regulate and control the freedom of religious speech during VA-sponsored events, such as ceremonies and funerals for both veterans with disabilities, and those without. The alleged attempt at censoring religious speech during a Memorial Day ceremony led to a federal lawsuit being filed against the cemetery, which was finally settled.

As part of an agreement that arose from mediation, the VA has made multiple agreements as to how the cemetery will operate going forward, according to an article in The Houston Chronicle. The final agreement does not have a Judge’s signature on it yet, but filed documents detail the settlement.

To begin, the VA has agreed to pay $215,000 worth of fees and expenses for attorneys but has said that payment does not equate to any admission of guilt or liability. The payment is part of an existing VA policy and/or practice.

Most importantly, the VA openly agrees not to “interfere,” adjust, or control any words of “religious expression” without a family’s objections. Further, there will be no restriction on the types of services held with regard to “religious or secular content.” The VA has also agreed to in no way limit any level of private, religious speech during a ceremony the VA is sponsoring.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA in Trouble for Prohibiting Use of Jesus in Prayer

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Rev. Scott Rainey was invited to perform an invocation prayer at a Memorial Day ceremony at the Houston National Ceremony. This would have been the third year in which Rev. Rainey delivered this prayer for this ceremony. This was the first year Rev. Rainey was asked to submit his prayer for review prior to the ceremony.

After reviewing his written prayer, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and cemetery director  Arleen Ocasio informed Rev. Rainey he would not be able to mention Jesus in his prayer. According to Ocasio, Rev. Rainey’s prayer was not inclusive enough.

The VA supported their decision on the basis that saying Jesus Christ would likely offend those veterans of different religions. The Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit against the VA and petitioned the Court for a temporary restraining order under the premise it is unconstitutional for the government to stifle private speech occurring on public lands.

A federal judge in Texas agreed with the Liberty Institute and informed the VA they could not censor Rev. Rainey’s invocation prayer. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote “the government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity.”

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.