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VA Christmas card ban defies law

Featured in General News
VA Christmas card ban defies law

Handwritten Christmas cards from schoolchildren were denied distribution to veterans at the Dallas VA Medical Center this week because they referenced the holiday by name, and American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger is not happy about it. Neither is the Liberty Institute, which has sided with the Legion in opposing a number of other attempts to prevent free expression of speech and religion.

Also this week, the VA hospital in Augusta, Ga., announced a new policy that turned away high school students who intended to sing Christmas carols to veterans, as they traditionally have in past years. And in Iowa City, American Legion members were told they could not hand out presents to veterans if the wrapping paper said Merry Christmas, a problem they solved by filtering the gifts through the VA chaplain.
The American Legion has asked VA Central Office for an explanation of why it appears that Christians are being singled out for restrictions, especially when the holiday honors the birth of Jesus Christ.

“First of all, VA’s decision to prohibit the delivery of Christmas cards that mention Christmas is ludicrous,” Dellinger said today after Texas teacher Susan Chapman was told Monday that her students’ cards would not be delivered to veterans. “Second of all, VA has been down this road before, and recently. VA has been warned through a federal court decree to stop denying freedom of religious expression at its facilities. It’s pretty obvious the Dallas VA did not get that memo.”

When high school singers arrived last Friday at the Augusta, Ga., VA Medical Center, officials reportedly gave them a list of 12 approved, secular holiday songs. Unprepared to sing them, the students opted not to perform. “That’s censorship, pure and simple,” Dellinger said of the rejected carolers. “Every Christmas, every religious holiday, Christians are more and more often targeted for censorship and restriction at VA facilities. Veterans in these hospitals fought to protect such freedoms.”

Chapman, the wife of a U.S. military veteran, has requested that the Dallas VA Medical Center immediately rescind its discriminatory policy and allow her and her students – and any others in the future – to distribute Christmas cards that say “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You” or mention Jesus. Writing to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and VA North Texas Health System Director Jeffery L. Milligan, the Liberty Institute set a deadline of Dec. 27 for confirmation in writing “that Mrs. Chapman and her students may distribute cards that contain the phrase ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘God Bless You,’ or that contain other religious references to veterans at the Medical Center and at all other VA hospitals, and that the holiday card policies of the Department and the Medical Center (are) brought in line with applicable law.”

“Of course, for this year’s schoolchildren, it’s a little late, and that’s really disappointing,” said Dellinger, who leads the 2.4-million-member American Legion, largest veterans organization in the country. “VA needs to let those children deliver cards to the veterans now, and those who wrongly banned them owe an apology to the children, the teacher and the veterans who were supposed to get them Monday. This is a clear case of discrimination on the basis of religious expression; the courts have already ruled that such policies are unconstitutional. The American Legion fully concurs with that interpretation.”

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eagle2758

January 13, 2014 - 11:38pm

How soon do you forget, and what do you expect? Your people in Houston, who said we couldn't say God at military funerals,eh. We had to sue you for that, so what do you expect,eh? Claims are backed up for years, our benefits are now getting cut while illegals get more money. Hmmmmmmm. BTW, I am on the Honor Guard. Been there, done that. If the family only wants a non-religious funeral, we give them one, that's how you ENSURE Freedom! If all they want is the flag folded, we do that. Only want taops,flag, rifles? We give it to them. Don't like it? Feel free to move to Iran, Russia, China, North Korea, etc. If Legion supports religious charge against VA - google in Legion website VA accused of censoring religious speech at cemetery - google in Houston Chronicle June 28,2011 - Truth is there!

LeCadien

January 8, 2014 - 10:32am

Two Christian websites are now reporting that this claim, which issued originally from Fox News, is untrue, and resulted from Fox News omitting important information about VA policy that does indeed allow Christmas cards, etc., to be issued to veterans. I can't post website addresses here, but Google these article titles and you'll be able to read them for yourself: Todd Starnes Sold Us a War on Christianity And: Fox News' Todd Starnes Called a Liar for Stories About 'War on Christians' By Christian Blogger These articles are respectively from the Christian websites Patheos and The Christian Post.

Drew Leyda

January 7, 2014 - 10:30am

The American Legion seems to have lied !

ppammela

January 6, 2014 - 2:29pm

Why would you make up such a blatant lie?

NORHAM

January 6, 2014 - 1:20pm

Heres the truth! VA North Texas Welcomes Holiday Donations First, we would like to state that the VA greatly appreciates donations made by students and organizations on behalf of our Veterans and we will always accept cards for our patients who celebrate Christmas. We would like to clarify the process though in which VA North Texas Health Care System (VANTHCS) handles religious/spiritual donations. All forms of holiday donations are received every year and recorded through Voluntary Services. A multi-disciplinary team led by Chaplaincy services reviews holiday cards and determines if the cards contain religious/secular material within them and in the event they do – our Chaplains distribute them by asking patients on a one-on-one basis if they will accept a holiday card with religious references. Our Veterans enlisted in the military with the understanding they may be called to fight for our freedoms. One of those freedoms is our freedom to practice a religion of our choice free of persecution. As a federal agency that provides health care to our Nation’s Veterans, it is our duty to uphold and respect the fact that our Veterans are from all faiths and backgrounds and we must honor their sacrifices by making sure we approach religious donations through highly trained VA Chaplains and seek patient approval before distribution. Happy Holidays! Jeff Milligan DIRECTOR

Steven Harris Retired MSgt

January 31, 2014 - 4:00am

Thanks for presenting the facts and I can agree that the American Legion may have exaggerated the prejudicial attitude in this situation, but the truth is there has been a change in process and procedures under the concept of freedom of religion in many military functions and operations, which point toward promoting other world religious practices over the Christian. It is a thin-line that we walk as military leaders to ensure everybody receives equal treatment and respect for their service without crossing lines of religion and preferral alternate lifestyles. I understand and faced it sveral times in my 23 yrs of service. When Clinton introduced the homosexual alternate lifestyle clause in the military; it made many leave and question the integrity of our leaders and how it would destroy the integrity and honorable reputation of our soldiers. It took afew years but we realized that most of us regardless of our religion did not care about a person's personal lifestyle in private but our concerns were what impacts would their personnal dress, public affection or conduct have on the younger and older troops much like an male airmen wearing earrings and tongue beads, large unappropiate prejudice tatoos. For some it was a issue but the military drafted the new regulations that maintained the professionism of the soldier and personaal conduct allowed in an out of uniform. For we are on duty 24/7 and in the public eye always. Many soldiers especially new ones don't understand the sacrificesw each member is exppected to make to be a part of the military family. We are not like any other society; nor should we allow the society we serve to interfere with the discipline and code of conduct that has made our soldiers the best and most honorable in the world! I saw people come into the AF and beleieve that they were going to work a shift and then take off the uniform and put-on the same clothes they wore prior to enlistment. I pullled CQ duty to ensure our airmen kept their appearance respectable on base. Young men and girls in gothic make-up and chains and spikes. Gangbangers who thought the military would let them have their tattoos and fly colors in the open. Most were harmless but some actually never adjusted and wear cast out as thiefs , drug-users;dealers or just unable to adjust to military duty. Administrative discharges which allowed them to return to the society that loved and could not do without. But being a soldier is not about doing what we we want or prefer; but sacrificing our rights to be a part of a better society with a greater purpose special training and education and attitude required. This the new military, not that from Vietnam or the 80's. We respect anyone who is willing to serve along side as long as he or she does their job and shows respect for the leadership and the uniform! Code of conduct of an NCO and commisioned officer is the same so as an apprentice soldier, I could understand such antics and attitudes but once a soldier becomes an officer,NCO our conduct must be above reproach, exemplify the best in all we do, service to others before our own needs; lead by example! Any person who can't live by those words will fail as a leader of men! Respect the rank and service given by the person; prejudice is wrong in any form and detrs a team from working together to accomplish the mission! Don't let politics distract us from the real objectives. Politicians love to play smoke and mirrrors and create crisises and chaos. Freedom of expression, whether moral or immoral (personal decision & consequences) and freedom of religion is a hard pill to swallow, but when you deploy to other nations; it becomes clear. We joined the military voluntarily, we trained and fought together as brothers and then showed that we would die if necessary so our fellow citizens (strangers) can execute those rights. We don't know our own prejudices until they are tested. Sometimes silence & standing still is the greatest form of respect!

Dennis Lynch

January 30, 2014 - 4:40pm

Shame on many of the readers of this discussion! Look at the ones who are ranting about being denied the opportunity to practice their religion, etc. They far outnumber other responses. They are simply spouting off what they want to believe. The letter above, written by someone who knows first-hand, explains the situation. Shame on people who spread lies and misinformation.

eagle2758

January 13, 2014 - 11:11pm

Hey, aren't you guys the same ones who said we couldn't say God at military funerals,eh. We had to sue you for that, so what do you expect,eh? Claims are backed up for years, our benefits are now getting cut while illegals get more money. Hmmmmmmm.

ppammela

January 6, 2014 - 2:30pm

Apparent the American Legion prefers to peddle half truths and lies.

daughter of a vet

January 2, 2014 - 4:20pm

Disgusting! Think about it; you are sick and in hospital and someone of (perhaps) a different faith than your personal faith comes to your door to sing, or sends you a handwritten card to celebrate the same holiday that the government shuts down for, in celebration? It matters not which faith the card mentions - what matters is the recognition and the sentiment and by the way, helping kids to recognize, respect and appreciate those who have served their country. I would be willing to bet that there is not one single veteran who would have refused the singing or the cards if asked, and even if one did, we should take away this gift from the children for the 99% who truly needed their spirits lifted that day for that one in 1,000 who didn't appreciate it? It is unconscionable that this was allowed to happen, and we need to know what to do to get this policy reversed.

Jim Cockerham

January 1, 2014 - 8:37pm

Well..... I guess the communists and radical-islamists have penetrated the deep levels of our government. Both have stated they will destroy us from within. And, both are now in the White House. What about the oath we all took -- several times over a military career???!!! Think very carefully about the oath.

Dan Heckman

January 1, 2014 - 11:11am

wouldn't a reasonable solution be to have those veterans who would be receptive to both the Christmas cards and Christmas carolers indicate the would be willing to receive both of them and for them to be allowed to ? for those of different faiths the option is for you to say no thanks while respecting our faith as Christians to receive the blessing and comforts of the cards and carolers.

Luther Poach

December 31, 2013 - 5:20pm

I gather from the VA's statement that the cards were never banned, but if they have a religious reference, the patient has to approve it before it is delivered. I can see a reason for this.

Larry Holman

December 30, 2013 - 12:43pm

I am delighted that the American Legion is willing to engage the VA in ALL matters as pertains to their delivery of services to ALL veterans. The VA claims to be "Veteran-centered". Well, the VA needs to be held accountable and their performance needs to be measured against their own published standards. Where the VA falls short, Congress needs to be challenged to perform their oversight responsibilities post-haste.

Pierre F. Gauthier, Retired Sgt.

December 29, 2013 - 2:24am

I am sooo glad to see that those who fought or were ready to fight for the FREEDOM of speech and FREEDOM of choice(s) for all the citizens of this United States of America, exercise their FREEDOM of speech and express their feelings here. Those who want to should have the freedom to sing CHRISTMAS carols, the same FREEDOM of those who just might get a CHRISTMAS card, they just might not want, and have the freedom to throw the card out. To me that is FREEDOM of both groups and NOT A SMALL GROUP of POMPOUS people telling others what they feel we are allowed to say/do according to their rules as opposed to a level playing field for all. AND may God Bless both groups. Or if you do not want to receive this blessing you have the freedom not to receive it.

Howard in Pa

December 28, 2013 - 1:13pm

Given the shape our country is in, or the shape the world is in I would think people would find something more constructive to cry about. Christmas cards? Really? I'd bet that a lot of those Vets would have been happy to have anything.

Paul Wright

December 31, 2013 - 2:42pm

Howard, It's not the "Christmas Card ", but the freedom to distribute that card, that is the meaning. Whether it be Christian, Muslum or Jewish, this is still a free country that these brave men and women fought for. Please don't try to belittle that. Thank you.

Tim Love

December 27, 2013 - 10:13am

Until whatever organizations are deciding to do something nice for veterans give them a choice to have either a religious or secular card/song, I would have to side with the VA on this one. I know they are just trying to be nice and do something special that they do not have to do. But often times they do not think of what it would be like to be of a different faith (or no faith) and having this pushed on them. What this article fails to mention is why did these bans come into place? Is it just another political thing, or is it in response to patients at the facilities?

Patriot76

December 27, 2013 - 3:39pm

Uhmmm, "CHRIST"mas? Yeah.

Gail Brents FC1SW USN

December 26, 2013 - 4:56pm

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!"

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