Texas Legislators and Christian Groups Fight to Insert God Into Vets' Funerals -- Against Families' Wishes
Shouldn't veterans and their families have the right to decide whether religion -- and what kind -- is welcome at their own funerals? The Department of Veterans Affairs says yes. But three Texas Congressman and Christian military organizations want to strip away this basic right. Instead, they want to be allowed to impose unwanted Christian ceremonies on the military funerals of everybody who has served the red, white, and blue.
Following the Families’ Wishes
Three organizations -- Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4, the American Legion Post 586, and the National Memorial Ladies -- have filed a lawsuit against VA officials at the Houston National Cemetery for banning references to God in a recent service.
“It makes my skin crawl that liberals are attempting to drive prayer out of a funeral ceremony for our heroes,” Texas Rep. John Culberson told Fox News, which has given significant airtime to the controversy. “We’re going to fix this so that no Obama liberal bureaucrat will interfere with the funeral of a hero.” In addition to supporting the lawsuit, Culberson has threatened to stop the salary of the cemetery director who enforced the no-consent-no-God rule and to hold hearings in the fall investigating the VA's anti-Christian stance.
Republican Texas reps. Culberson, Ted Poe and Michael McCaul portray the issue as denying American heroes the religious funerals they desire. In a post with the tongue-in-cheek headline “ Texas Congressmen to force Christian prayer over my dead body,” American Atheists military director Justin Griffith accuses the trio of outright lying in order to use “military funerals for political gain.” The fantasy story they’re peddling certainly plays better than the truth: that they’re expending energy and resources fighting for the right to “use Christian themes, prayers, speeches without seeking consent in every single military veteran funeral statewide.”
While the VA couldn’t comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, it stated its support for the besieged cemetery director and provided an official statement slamming the broader accusations:
“The idea that invoking the name of God or Jesus is banned at VA national cemeteries is blatantly false. The truth is VA’s policy protects veterans’ families’ rights to pray however they choose at our national cemeteries. Put simply, VA policy puts the wishes of the veteran's family above all else on the day it matters most -- the day they pay their final respects to their loved one.”
If the VA has anything to say about it, it will continue to be up to veterans’ families whether or not to have a religious service -- and whether the religion is Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or a multitude of other faiths. The VA further confirmed that the changes advocated would mean imposing religious prayer against the wishes of the family.
Meanwhile, the groups filing the lawsuit are playing the victim, claiming their religious rights are being violated and complaining about how difficult it is to be prohibited from imposing their God on unwilling veterans’ families. Marilyn Koepp, secretary of National Memorial Ladies, a volunteer group that attends veterans’ funerals, shares her woes with Fox News: “It’s very hard for me to be at the funeral of one of our veterans ... and we just make that decision that we will say God bless you, and how can someone tell us, no you can’t."
But the feelings of volunteers like herself, strangers to the deceased veteran and their families, don’t matter in this situation. It’s not a ceremony for their loved ones. They’re volunteering to attend and honor late veterans -- and while this is a laudable act, it loses all of its positive impact if it involves ramming unwanted religious rhetoric down the throats of mourning family members.