U.S. Army photo

VA agrees to Houston cemetery settlement

The Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to a settlement of a lawsuit alleging religious censorship at Houston National Cemetery. Local veterans and volunteer groups had accused VA and cemetery officials of banning them from using religious speech - including the words Jesus and God - during services at the cemetery.

Under the settlement, VA has agreed to not ban, regulate or interfere with prayers, recitation or words of religious expression unless asked to do so by family members of the deceased. Veterans families will be allowed to hold services with any religious or secular content they desire.

Also under the settlement, local members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4 and a local organization named the National Memorial Ladies will resign their positions as official VA volunteers and instead will be free to make their services known to local funeral homes that make arrangements for the families and do so in their private capacity. Families can then decide what, if any, services they would like these groups to provide at their committal services.

As part of the settlement, VA has agreed to pay plaintiffs an amount for attorney fees and costs.