EXCLUSIVE--Liberty Institute: Veterans Affairs Bans Christmas Cards to Troops over Religious Content
According to the Liberty Institute, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is refusing to allow school children to give Christmas cards to veterans if those cards say “Merry Christmas” or “God bless you.” Religious liberty lawyers have sent the VA a letter demanding they immediately lift the ban.
Susan Chapman is a teacher at Grace Academy of North Texas and, at a parent’s suggestion, organized a project for students to take cards to wounded military veterans to thank them and cheer them up during the holidays. She attempted to deliver those cards to a VA hospital in Dallas on Dec. 22. However, VA staff reportedly stopped her when she entered the facility, telling her that gifts or messages with religious content were not permitted by VA policy.
“It is so sad that the VA is sending a message to our children that after all the veterans have done to fight for freedom across the world, the children have no freedom to say Merry Christmas to these honorable men and women,” Chapman said.
Texas-based Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the VA, insisting they immediately drop this policy which allows a generic greeting but disallows references to Christmas, which is officially recognized as a national holiday under federal law.
Liberty Institute’s Director of Litigation, Hiram Sasser, responded in a statement, “The VA is once again engaging in unlawful religious discrimination. It is shameful that the VA continues to censor religious speech in Christmas cards when the VA knows it is against the law to do so.”
In saying “once again,” Sasser is referring to the VA being caught forbidding prayers or religious speech at VA funerals and cemeteries. Liberty Institute brought suit in that matter as well, where the VA settled the lawsuit and allowed the religious content to resume. In that Sept. 22, 2011 federal court settlement, the judge ordered the VA “not to ban religious speech or words, such as ‘God’ and ‘Jesus,’ in condolence cards or similar documents given by non-VAVS volunteer[s].”
There is also a lawsuit pending involving Evangelical Christians who were allegedly expelled from being VA chaplains because of their traditional Christian beliefs.
The letter from the Liberty Institute is available below.
VA Demand.122413 -
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.