The New York Times has an article that debunks the recent religious right freakout over a military cemetery “banning” prayers and religious talk at military funerals. In fact, all they did was say that outside groups could not provide religious rituals at a military funeral unless the family of the deceased requests it. A group in Texas has filed a lawsuit over it.
The plaintiffs, aided by a conservative legal group, the Liberty Institute, contend they should be allowed to use a Veterans of Foreign Wars script dating from World War I that refers to the deceased as “a brave man” with an “abiding faith in God” and that seeks comfort from an “almighty and merciful God.” The institute has publicized the dispute nationwide with slick videos and a Web site declaring that “Jesus is not welcome at gravesides.”
And they can use it if the family wants it.
“In all these years, we’ve not had one complaint,” said Inge Conley, a retired Army master sergeant who is commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, District 4, one of the plaintiffs.
Great. Then people will request it when they want it. But you don’t get to impose that on families that don’t want it. Why is this so difficult to understand?
Department of Veterans Affairs officials say that the original policy, enacted under President George W. Bush, resulted from complaints about religious words or icons being inserted unrequested into veterans’ funerals. They noted that active-duty military honor guards, including the teams that do funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, say almost nothing during their ceremonies.
“We do what the families wish,” said Steve L. Muro, the under secretary for memorial affairs. “I always tell my employees we have just one chance to get it right.”
Though two of the largest veterans organizations, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, have criticized the Houston National Cemetery, some veterans’ advocates have risen to the department’s support. Those advocates say that families who want prayers can have them and assert that the Liberty Institute has blown the dispute out of proportion to embarrass the Obama administration.
A religious right group making fake claims of persecution for political gain? Wow, how shocking.