Almost a month ago I wrote a post about religious discrimination by the Department of Veterans Affairs against Christian prayer at the Houston National Cemetery. The VA’s Press Secretary, Josh Taylor, had the following to say about the controversy back on June 30th:
Invoking the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed, it is common at VA National Cemeteries across the country. However, VA’s policy is that VA-sponsored honor guards should not make recitations at committal services unless requested to do so by the deceased’s survivor(s).
Today, Taylor doubled down:
“The idea that invoking the name of God or Jesus is banned at VA national cemeteries is blatantly false,” said VA Press Secretary Josh Taylor in a written statement to Fox News Radio. “The truth is, VA’s policy protects veterans’ families’ rights to pray however they choose at our national cemeteries.”
Taylor declined to comment on the pending lawsuit or other ongoing legal proceedings, but did say, “No one should make judgments before all the facts are known.”
But Taylor said the rules set in place at the cemetery are meant to protect the grieving families.
“Put simply, VA policy puts the wishes of the veteran’s family above all else on the day it matters most – the day they pay their final respects to their loved ones,” Taylor said. “Out of respect for the families, VA’s policy exists to prevent anyone from disrespecting or interfering with a veteran’s private committal service.”
If you read the e-mail from Cemetery Director Arleen Ocasio to Pastor Scott Rainey, the real VA policy is crystal clear.
From: “Ocasio, Arleen” <Arleen.Ocasio@va.gov>
Cc: “Reyes, Jackie” <Jackie.Powledge@va.gov>, “Stone, Evelyn” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FW: Memorial Day Prayer
Date: Thu, 19 May 2011 14:26:23 -0400
Thank you for accepting to participate in our Memorial Day Program. I have reviewed your attached Memorial Day Prayer/Message, while it is very well written I must ask you to edit it.
The above prayer/message is specific to one belief. As you know, on Memorial Day we will be commemorating veterans from all cultures and religious beliefs. The tone of all messages must be inclusive of all beliefs, need to be general, and its fundamental purpose should be specific to those we are honoring, and non-‐denominational in nature.
Pastor Gantz from the Living Word Church of Nazarene is scheduled to provide the Benediction for the Memorial Day Program. If you have his contact number and email, I would appreciate it as I will need him to provide me with a copy of his Benediction for review.
Thank you again for your participation.
The VA’s Press Secretary is either woefully misinformed or he’s a liar. Either way, Josh Taylor’s not earning his paycheck.