Veterans say "Jesus" and "God" banned from cemetery prayers

Just in time for the Independence Day holiday weekend, some disturbing allegations out of Texas.


Veterans in Houston say the Department of Veterans Affairs is consistently censoring their prayers by banning them from saying the words “God” and “Jesus” during funeral services at Houston National Cemetery.

Three organizations — the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion and the National Memorial Ladies — allege that the cemetery’s director and other government officials have created “religious hostility” at the cemetery and are violating the First Amendment. According to court documents filed this week in federal court, the cemetery’s director, Arleen Ocasio, has banned saying “God” at funerals and requires prayers be submitted in advance for government approval, reports.

“People are doing things out there that I feel like they shouldn’t be,” Vietnam veteran Jim Rodgers told the website.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement that it “respects every veteran and their family’s right to burial service that honors their faith tradition.” The department employs nearly 1,000 chaplains who preside over religious burials, according to the statement.

However, the new allegations come one month after a controversy surrounding Pastor Scott Rainey’s prayer in Jesus’ name at a Memorial Day service in the cemetery. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled May 26 that the government couldn’t stop Rainey from using the words “Jesus Christ” in his invocation. Hughes issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from censoring Rainey’s prayer.

“The hostile and discriminatory actions by the Veterans Affairs officials in Houston are outrageous, unconstitutional and must stop,” said Jeff Mateer, an attorney with Liberty Institute, which filed the original lawsuit on behalf of the veterans groups. “Government officials who engage in religious discrimination against citizens are breaking the law. Sadly, this seems to be a pattern of behavior at the Houston VA National Cemetery.”

Read more.

"I think I would have been happier had the CDF handled the nuns the way ..."

Vatican challenges “interpretation” of cardinal’s remarks ..."
"Blaming "Islamics" for this is like blaming the Pope for the Holocaust Denial of Hutton ..."

One killed, 44 injured in Catholic ..."
"It smacks to me of hyper-sensitivity, a veiled spiritual and intellectual pride, with regards to ..."

Pope Francis: “A Christian who complains, ..."
"Oh, no, we never change our mind, and we always agree, even on points of ..."

Vatican challenges “interpretation” of cardinal’s remarks ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

19 responses to “Veterans say "Jesus" and "God" banned from cemetery prayers”

  1. Having worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and having a parent who used to work for a National Cemetery – I suspect that this is one person – Arleen Ocasio – at one place – Houston VA National Cemetery – who has overstepped her area of responsibility.

  2. Yep. She sure has. Overstepped is an understatment; more like fell all over herself to be Obama-correct.

  3. Welcome to the world of Obamaland. I guess is the audacity of saying Jesus under the regime of political correctness.

  4. If you haven’t done so reacently you might want to read Revelations and think about who the beast and the false profit might be and the censequesnces of not standing up against them!

  5. MhariDubh probably has it right — it’s one cemetery director (Ocasio) who is a loose cannon, I’m guessing. One bad official does not a trend make.

    Having said that, how very sad that such a thing has happened in even one cemetery. Should not have happened, not even once.

  6. My father passed away this pass weekend and I will be conducting his committal service at the Veteran’s National Cemetery in St. Louis. I have found the VA there to be very supportive and professional. The only thing they have asked about the religious service is the length. That question came up because they want to use the Air Force honor guard for a follow-on internment.

    This is one guy out of control.

  7. Prayer, religion, God, faith were all banned in Russia and Germany. Is that what this nation is coming to?

    Well, on the face of what is quoted, I would say that it’s coming to a country where the courts still support the “free exercise” of religion just like the Bill of Rights says they are supposed to do, and where people like yourselves, who merely happen to be lawyers, are willing to bind together to fight for “free exercise”. Just like you could do.

    A lot of worrying and handwringing could be avoided if religious people would bother to inform themselves a little about the case law concerning both the “free exercise” and the “anti-establishment” clauses. You could start at the Liberty Institute’s website, since I’m sure most of you will prefer it’s political flavor. While your at it, you could look at their resources page about how to get involved, how to protect your own “free exercise”, and how to seek legal help with your doing it.

    It would also be useful for Christians to come to terms with the fact that a large number of private American citizens are either indifferent or hostile to Christians and Christianity, and what goes on in this arena is not just a matter of who happens to be President at the moment.

    Once upon a time, enough Americans were part of a church, that Christianity could count on some insulation from the rough and tumble of our politics. That time ended a long time ago, and Christians should start getting used to that fact.

    You need to disabuse yourself of the notion that just because you think you are “good people” who possess and are following The Truth, that everybody else ought to agree with you and let you and your worship alone.

    America doesn’t work that way. A certain amount of the time, if you want to be free, you need to fight quite a number of your fellow citizens for it. Stop deceiving yourself that any particular politician, no matter how much you dislike him, is solely responsible for whatever conflict you may encounter over your religion.

    Conflict is the cost of “free speech”, “free expression”, “freedom of the press” and “free exercise of religion”. It will be so as long as no two of us think the same thing, or think the same thing about it.

  8. The 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution says: “Congress shall make no laws repecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF;…..”

    This policy of the VA is expressly illegal by constitutional standards and should be treated and ignored as such.

    The decision of Everson v Board of Education bastardized the quote of Thomas Jefferson about the “Wall of separation between Church & State”. Progressives litigators took this statement out of context and changed to mean something entirely differnent than Jefferson meant.

    The full letter is as follows:

    Mr. President

    To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


    The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

    I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem.

    (signed) Thomas Jefferson

    Blessed be God forever!


  9. I’ll back up Deacon Dave.

    I have done two “Committal Ceremonies” at National Cemeteries straight out of the standard Roman Catholic funeral rites book. The only requirement that was placed on me was time. Each burial had a specific allocation that could not be exceeded without prior arrangement. That is quite understandable. One of those two cemeteries had seven scheduled for that specific date — and mine was not the last one. Our veterans — particularly World War II and Korea — are dying off in huge numbers.

  10. Personally I don’t care wheather they use the words ” God” or Jesus”… I think it’s should be up to the persons belief being buried or his family… That said, some people like to use religion as a tool to divide or assume that they’re better people… You can see it in these post… Like using your religion to go after the president because you don’t like him and it’s you people who create the reasons that religion is being excluded… Stop using your religion as a political weapon… And maybe the need to regulate funeral services won’t be needed…. You have no evidence president Obama had anything at all to do with this…but you see an opportunity to bash him..

  11. The Bp Charles P Greco Assembly 2161, Marietta GA has had a Mass at the pavilion at the Marietta National Cemetery on Memorial Day for at least 1.5 decades, including this year. A few years ago I was the assigned organizer for 2 yrs running. Those years the retired Abp John Francis Donoghue was the celebrant. Over those years the only change in policy was to limit parking in the cemetery because the width of the paved areas was too narrow for parking w/o parking on the grass.

    During that time the cemetery director changed and had a overflow cemetery in Canton GA added to the responsibilities. The only change I noticed is that the new guy is more organized that the former one.

    btw for those in N GA area, Marietta has an annual July 4 parade – tomorrow at 10 am from Roswell St Baptist Church to the Square past the southern boundary of the cemetery. Watch for the Assembly – some of us are usually in tuxes, though the heat has been very bad this year. I think I am going to have to go for comfort.

    Ask one of us for directions – there is a picnic at the Council 4599 afterwards.

    vivt Jesus

    PGK PFN Richard

  12. Perhaps if someone were to actually ask the VA why this was occurring, an answer could be received? Seems far more logical than blasting this to the world (as my Knights of Columbus group is doing) looking for yet more irrelevant ‘bannings’ of God in cemeteries. Before you get too angry, I’m retired US Army, served in Vietnam and am also Roman Catholic and a Sir Knight. Military chaplains have been encouraged at least since I started in 1988 to make their prayers more ecumenical when it is NOT a personal service (Funeral perhaps?) or a service for one particular faith. This instance was Memorial Day, not a religious day, but a day memorializing those, of all faiths and those of no faith tradition, who died while serving this country. I.E., a day when many Texans of many differing faith traditions would reasonably be attending. Although I have often heard “Jesus Christ” and “God” used in such services, it remains not only a bit inappropriate, but shows a disregard and disrespect for those who died for their country, most knowing they weren’t battling for religion, but politics & some vision of political freedom.

    Those opposed to this may feel a bit odd themselves if it was a US Army Chaplain who was an Imam who proceeded to ask the blessings of Allah for all those who died for the USA. (I suspect) Most non-Catholic Christians would have difficulty with an Air Force Catholic Chaplain asking everyone to ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother for the souls of the departed. Most of those I’ve heard or read that complain aren’t in the military and generally have never served more than one enlistment. Get both sides of this issue, then defend your case. Right now, these folks are on the wrong side.

    Finally, note the Google threads on this and see how quickly it is going from being about one small Houston VA office whose Director (one person implementing US policy); to outlandish and equally unsupportable claims that the President is ordering God to be banned from the military cemeteries.

    I ask that we all pray to God that we don’t align ourselves with innuendo and pray that those involved have gotten their misperceptions clarified.

  13. Many, many US citizens fought for this country because they had to. They were drafted. Many did not fight for the Christian religion or the current administration in government at the time, but, felt it profitable to keep this country free so religious and non-religious; republicans and democrats; can continue to practice their thoughts in a land where all these things should be tolerated. Jesus haters in the administration should be fired. They are infringing on the blood that hallowed veteran cemeteries. Moslems and Buddhists should hold their ceremonies without looking over their back to see if there are any who object their way of leaving their love ones to the great beyond. All who died for this country died for all in this country. Count it as a blessing for living in this country.

  14. As a new pemanent resident (2yrs.) Having studied economics and political science I find so unbelievable
    how politics has become so entrenched in some church
    denominations. I say this as one who believes in Jesus Christ. I’ve actually seen and heard lies being perpetuated by those who no better. It seems to make ones point it does’nt
    matter if it’s a lie or not, as long as it’ serves the purpose of
    destroying the President.

    We all are entitled to our opinions on policy and direction
    of the country, and one can vote according to their belief.
    However as christians it’s also our duty to seek out the
    Twenty-four hour a day news has polarized the
    country because to many people believe comentators
    on cable news networks are always telling them the gospel.
    It’s tearing a wonderful country apart!
    I go to reliable sources to check things out, including
    watching debates and votes in the house and senate.

    It’s time for those who have the country’s best interest’s
    at heart not best politics to speak out.

    Jesus was not a politician nor did he intend his church
    to play a cheap role in politics.

    In as far as the cemetary directors position is concerned it’s in complete condridiction to the oath of allegance. She should
    retract her position or resign.

    All prayers should be honoured

    Larry C. Hannah

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.