I’m beside myself over this story from Fox News about the Veterans National Cemetery in Houston, TX. Reportedly the cemetery director, Arleen Ocasio, has:
- Ordered an American Legion post to remove prayers from its burial rituals
- Told the National Memorial Ladies they may no longer include “God bless” in their condolence cards or use religious messages when talking with veterans’ families
- Shut down the cemetery chapel and turned it into a meeting room
If this is true, then it’s a stunning and disturbing development. Everyone who merits a Veterans National Cemetery burial is a hero, and there can be no greater time when prayer is needed than during these ceremonies. Our fallen warriors and their families deserve nothing less, and a cemetery director who does not understand or who does not appreciate this, must go. And I mean, go find another country, not just another job.
I’m reminded of a favorite line one of my history professors used to throw out whenever we examined tragic events that shaped the world: “All consequences have antecedents.” It was his way of saying that things don’t happen in isolation, and if you study them, you can find the reasons why they occurred.
In the case of the Houston cemetery’s bad attitude about faith, there are antecedents in both the civilian community and in the military. For decades, a vocal minority of anti-religious fanatics has taken the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and wrapped it around a lead pipe to beat people of faith into silence and to deny them their free exercise rights. We’re all familiar with the endless efforts by the ACLU to banish any form of religious expression in public schools and in the halls of government. Unfortunately, the military has not been immune from this kind of dysfunctional liberal overreach.
In 2005, the USAF issued “Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force.” These rules essentially prohibited military chaplains from performing anything but non-denominational prayers outside of a formal chapel service or mass. The problem for Christian chaplains, however, was that their faith required them to pray in the name of Jesus. Soon after, the other services began ramping up their anti-faith policies, and Navy chaplain LT Gordon Klingenschmitt found himself under fire for daring to disobey the ban. His insistence on praying in Jesus’s name resulted in his court-martial and dismissal from the service. Dissuading a Christian chaplain from praying in the name of Jesus is like telling a pilot that he cannot climb into the cockpit and fly the plane.
Although the military today “permits” chaplains to pray as their faith tenets prescribe, using anything but a non-denominational prayer at a public event is discouraged. To a military member, discouragement equals prohibition. To make matters worse, we go to the opposite extreme when it comes to accommodating the religious faith of our sworn enemies. Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay are given all the religious amenities they demand, and our political leaders swell with pride at how tolerant and diverse they are in the process. At every opportunity to do the right thing, our government manages to do the dumb thing.
With antecedents like these, should we be surprised by Arleen Ocasio’s behavior at the Houston National Cemetery? Her actions are shocking, disgusting, and they should be a call to action for good citizens everywhere to stand up and say, “NO MORE!”
Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the thriller series, the Child Finder trilogy. He is a retired USAF Colonel and 25-year career Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Follow him on Twitter: @MikeAngley, FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/mike.angley, and visit his website: www.mikeangley.com.