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Veteran's Affairs committee wants to review policy on VA's anti-Christmas acts

Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 7:43 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 2:28 AM
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The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has ordered a review of all VA policy prohibiting guests from wishing patients a “merry Christmas” after four VA hospitals – including Augusta’s – prevented letters, gifts and carols that contained religious phrases from being sung or delivered.

The committee chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller, sent a letter this month to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki demanding an overview of the steps the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking to correct this “potential infringement of basic constitutional rights.”

The Florida Republican said he wanted to know by next Monday what actions are being taken to hold the VA employees responsible for the incidents. The request includes copies of all policy guidance related to the issue.

“Christmas was declared a federal holiday by our government in the 1800s, and it is not up to the department to decide whether veterans, their families, volunteers, and veterans service organizations should be free to sing Christmas carols or exchange Christmas gifts within VA facilities,” Miller said in a statement.

Miller’s remarks come after the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta told high school students from the city’s Alleluia Community School that they must choose different music if they want to perform in public areas.

In restricting the school’s caroling, VA administrators cited a 2008 rule in the Veterans Health Administration Handbook, stating that its leadership “may restrict or prohibit any practice that it deems detrimental to the health or safety of patients.”

Despite facing no resistance at the hospital in 2011 and 2012, the students were given a list of 12 nonreligious Christmas songs that the hospital’s Pastoral Service “deemed appropriate for celebration within the hearing range of all veterans.” They were told nonsecular songs could be sung in the hospital’s chapel.

“I am delighted this policy is up for review, and I certainly hope that in the future there will be no religious discrimination towards people or groups invited to sing at the hospital,” Alleluia Community High School Principal Dan Funsch said.

The stricter stance against Christmas references is not only an Augusta problem, Miller said, but a nationwide issue.

Over the Christmas season, VA officials in Iowa City, Iowa, told American Legion representatives they could not hand out gifts to veterans if the wrapping paper included the words “merry Christmas.”

At the Dallas VA Medical Center in Texas, leaders prevented the delivery of handwritten Christmas cards from local schoolchildren to veterans because the cards contained phrases such as “merry Christmas” and “God Bless You.”

And personnel at the VA medical center in Montgomery, Ala., prevented gift bags from being delivered to veterans because they included the words “merry Christmas.”

Because of Augusta’s actions, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian-based legal group headquartered in California, sent a letter to VA Director Bob Hamilton on Dec. 30 stating that the facility’s decision to exclude religious music likely violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

The lawyer who wrote the letter, Jeremy Tedesco, gave the hospital until next Monday to respond and said that if no action is taken, a lawsuit could be in the works.

Hospital spokesman Pete Scovill said that the hospital has not responded but that he expects it to reply by the end of the week.

Miller said the incidents are “unacceptable.”

He said he is asking VA patients, employees, volunteers and veterans service organization personnel to report any instances in which the VA might have attempted to curtail the celebration of Christmas or any other federal holidays through the House Committee on Veterans Affairs tip line at varoi@mail.house.gov.

Approved carols at the Augusta VA
  • Jingle Bells
  • Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
  • 12 Days of Christmas
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • All I Want for Christmas
  • The Christmas Song
  • Let it Snow
  • White Christmas
  • Sleigh Ride
  • Winter Wonderland
  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Comments (7) Add comment
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JimS
166
Points
JimS 01/14/14 - 07:32 am
0
1
Those Serving & Have Served Don't Serve Religious or Political
Unpublished

Ideologies, we serve the country who most refuse to Sacrifice as they demand we do!!

The Abandoning of the missions and the purposes of, along with the once
again promises to the Afghan people, first time was after the
Afghan/Soviet long war, quickly after 9/11, with the Lives still being lost, those serving still being wounded!!! Giving rise to, with the rhetoric from within, not a victory over, and spread of al Qaeda type ideology criminal terrorism!!!

The Cost of War, All Costs, the Responsibility of Those Served

"12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility
to a generation of service members, veterans and their families." Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: 'With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility'

There's only one branch of Government, Federal and States, consistently
doing for not only us Veterans' but also the Military personal and their
Families and without the control of the Countries purse strings and combining
the Cabinet agencies abilities to help where possible with their
budgets. That's the whole Executive branch under President Obama. Doing
what Congress, and State legislatures in passing feel patriotic support bills that are unfunded, and the people represented by them and served by the
Military refuse to do, Sacrifice, especially the wealthy!

Decades, and wars of, of under funding the VA. With these two recent
wars little was done for the Veterans of as well as the Military
personal, i.e. Walter Reed as one example, and their Families, in the
first years of both under the previous executive branch and those
congresses. Rubber stamped war costs, off the books and on the countries
credit card with no bid private contracts, including building an
expensive private merc army! That's not adding in all the other rubber
stamped costs of the bush administration policy wants, especially in the
first six years of!

Rachel Maddow: "We got a huge round of tax cuts in
this country a few weeks before 9/11. Once 9/11 happened and we invaded
Afghanistan, we kept the tax cuts anyway.
How did we think we were going to pay for that war? Did we think it was
free?

Then, when we started a second simultaneous war in another country, we
gave ourselves a second huge round of tax cuts. After that second war
started. The wars, I guess, we thought would be free, don`t worry about
it, civilians. Go about your business." 23 May 2013

"If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth
our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a
specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

David (CBS News) Martin: "Then there's the financial cost. To date,
the Pentagon has spent more than $500 billion on the war in Afghanistan.
A defense spending bill the Senate is expected to pass this week would
add another $80 billion to that." 17 December 2013

That's not counting those decades to come results from costs and the once again ignored, by those served, issues!

The wars, neither Afghanistan nor Iraq, have yet been paid for. Nor
especially the now decades to come, DeJa-Vu all over again, the of
results for those sent, over and over, and the continuing under funding
the Peoples Responsibility, the Veterans Administration charged with
much more then just caring for the wounded, as those served ignore most
of those results from!!

'Cost of War' site {real and estimated costs}: "Total
US federal spending associated with the Iraq war has been $1.7 trillion
through FY2013. In addition, future health and disability payments for
veterans will total $590 billion and interest accrued to pay for the war
will add up to $3.9 trillion." 19 March 2013 © 2011 Watson Institute, Brown University

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

Babe and Lou
14
Points
Babe and Lou 01/14/14 - 09:26 am
1
1
VA

These actions by the VA are political correctness run amuck. Good for Rep. Miller. It's about time someone questioned the actions of the VA. The VA officials are your typical politicos. If you lined all of them up, threw rocks and hit them in the head, none of them would fall down!

marsdvjm
3
Points
marsdvjm 01/14/14 - 11:05 am
1
1
christmas at the va

I have read the article about some of the VA;s not allowing the celebration of Chirstmas. This is an outrage and a true assult on Christmas, the admistrators that donot allow this are not interested in how the veterans feel, they are only interested in their own political agenda.I hate to say it, but if you did a study on who they supported or voted for in the last election I am willing to bet it was for the current administration.

PrayN4U
397
Points
PrayN4U 01/14/14 - 11:18 am
1
0
Contrdictory

1. VA administrators cited a 2008 rule in the Veterans Health Administration Handbook, stating that its leadership “may restrict or prohibit any practice that it deems detrimental to the health or safety of patients.”

Since when did any reference to any Christmas atmosphere become detrimental to humans.

2. prevented gift bags from being delivered to veterans because they included the words “merry Christmas.”

Five of the 12 songs have Christmas in the title

3. 12 nonreligious Christmas songs that the hospital’s Pastoral Service “deemed appropriate for celebration within the hearing range of all veterans.” They were told nonsecular songs could be sung in the hospital’s chapel.

If you can't sing religious song in a chapel then it's must be a chapel. Where do you go to pary and worship?

Darby
29443
Points
Darby 01/14/14 - 12:30 pm
3
0
I tried,

but can't make a lot of sense from JimS's rant above.

Darby
29443
Points
Darby 01/14/14 - 12:33 pm
3
1
I do know for certain that a lot of bureaucrats,

including those who made those hateful decisions at the VA hospital should get their "walking papers" and sooner rather than later.

As my sweet mother would have said, they're feeling "too big for their britches".

corgimom
38704
Points
corgimom 01/14/14 - 11:05 pm
0
0
I couldn't make sense of it

I couldn't make sense of it either.

Then there's this-
"They were told nonsecular songs could be sung in the hospital’s chapel.

If you can't sing religious song in a chapel then it's must be a chapel. Where do you go to pary and worship?"

That didn't make sense to me, either.

C4CFED
2
Points
C4CFED 01/17/14 - 12:33 pm
0
0
Veterans Affairs Dysfunctional Workplace Harms America's Veteran

The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C) says U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must do a better job to provide timely and fair benefits to America’s Veterans. One way to improve services is to hold public officials accountable for civil and human rights violations. See petition to hold public officials who engage in discriminatory or retaliatory treatment accountable. http://www.change.org/petitions/president-obama-sign-executive-order-man...

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