VP Pence: “During the last Administration the VA was removing Bibles & even banning Christmas carols to be politically correct, but under President Trump, VA hospitals will NOT be religion-free zones”
Under the Obama regime, the VA underwent major restrictive changes in terms of religion and Christmas, with various VA’s around the country instituting a range of bans. Bibles, high school Christmas carolers, gifts in wrapping paper with the words “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You,” Christmas trees and decorations, and even Christmas cards for hospitalized veterans were all banned. It was an appalling overreach that is now, at long last, being corrected under the Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence has announced changes in VA rules, and religious items, including those related to Christmas, are again allowed in our nation’s VA hospitals.
Vice President Mike Pence announced that he would be scrapping some of the previous administration’s policies when it comes to religion in Veterans Affairs hospitals.
The vice president spoke before the American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Wednesday where he announced that the administration under President Donald Trump would be rolling back some of the policies put into place while President Barack Obama was in the Oval Office.
According to Pence, Obama-era rules prohibited the celebration of religious holidays in VA hospitals, including the display of Christmas trees and Bibles.
Pence promised the veterans in the crowd that those rules were a thing of the past. The Trump administration had overturned those decisions and would be fighting a lawsuit that aims to remove a WWII-era Bible from one VA hospital in New Hampshire.
Pence took to Twitter to make his point clear.
During the last Administration the VA was removing Bibles & even banning Christmas carols to be politically correct, but under President @realDonaldTrump, VA hospitals will NOT be religion-free zones. Message to the New Hampshire VA: the Bible STAYS! –@AmericanLegion pic.twitter.com/f35NY28Jc5
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) August 29, 2019
The Bible in question is at the center of a lawsuit filed in New Hampshire over the inclusion in a POW/MIA display of a Bible once carried in WWII by a serviceman.
According to the lawsuit, the Washington Times notes, the inclusion of the Bible in the display somehow constitutes the establishment of religion: “The placement of the Christian Bible, here, is in violation of that fundamental proscription, that the government may not establish any religion.”
Earlier this year, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a veteran of the Air Force sued the VA in New Hampshire alleging a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause of Religion for the display of a Bible at a POW/MIA table in the lobby.
On Monday in an interview with The Washington Times, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the lawsuit — following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in American Legion v. American Humanist, which upheld the constitutionality of a memorial cross on public lands in Maryland — was all but “moot.”
“The last administration … had a very ahistoric approach [to veterans],” said Mr. Wilkie, who noted that he as a boy growing up in a military family in North Carolina used to sing Christmas carols to hospitalized veterans. “They did not know the makeup of the force.”
Mr. Wilkie also decried efforts by the previous administration of stripping religious memorabilia and limiting the ability of chaplains to disseminate religious texts.
The new rules are reportedly based on the Supreme Court ruling that permitted a cross at a WWI memorial in Maryland.
Officials designed the changes to protect the religious freedom of veterans and their families.
The new guidelines, which went into effect last month, referred to the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing a cross-shaped memorial to World War I dead to continue standing on public land in Bladensburg, Maryland.
The high court’s decision highlighted the important role that religious symbols plays in the lives of Americans and their consistency with constitutional principles.
. . . . Wilkie said he doesn’t anticipate litigation over the policy because it is based on the recent Supreme Court ruling.
“What Justice [Neil] Gorsuch said in the Maryland cross case was absolutely on target,” Wilkie said. “Because you might be offended doesn’t give you standing to stop other people from worshiping. For me, this is not only a military issue. It’s a religious liberty issue, and one that is vitally important to those we serve.”
The high court’s ruling should reaffirm the VA’s policy, said Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.
“On the heels of the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision that reaffirmed the Constitution’s protection of the tradition of public displays of religious monuments, symbols, and practices, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs took a much-needed step to clarify that religious symbols as well as spiritual and pastoral care are welcome at VA facilities,” Kao told The Daily Signal.
“Millions of soldiers from different religious backgrounds have relied upon their faith and gained encouragement from religious literature, symbols, and displays,” Kao continued. “No member of the military should have to hide their faith when they put on a uniform. Nor should our public square be devoid of religious symbols.”
Of course there will be lawsuits, but it sounds like Wilkie is essentially saying, “bring it.”DONATE
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