Veterans Advocacy Group Calls for Hearings on VA Religious Freedom

Flag of the United States Department of Veterans AffairsWASHINGTON -- Christian News Service -- In a letter to Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Military-Veterans Advocacy Inc, requested hearings into religious liberty violations within the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. This action came on the heels of a letter sent by Miller to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, demanding an explanation for alleged anti-Christian activities over the Christmas holiday. Specifically, Miller noted that some VA administrators refused to accept Christmas cards for veterans, restricted Christmas carols and refused to distribute gifts wrapped in Christmas paper. The letter also praised Miller for his support of religious freedom.

 Retired Navy Commander John B. Wells, Executive Director of Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc. called the VA actions "symptomatic of how ingrained secularist religious persecution is within the Department of Veterans Affairs." Wells went on to propose Congressional hearings on religious liberty within the VA and the adoption of similar protections for military personnel that were incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act.

"As a result a lot of these veterans that were in the hospital did not get the greeting cards and the small presents they should have," said Wells. "We're talking about, in some cases, school kids who got together to make these cards and to make presents for the veterans."

Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc., is a non-profit group dedicated to securing the rights of service members and veterans through litigation and legislative advocacy. The organization currently has two federal suits pending against Shinseki. The first deals with the denial of Agent Orange benefits to Navy veterans of the Vietnam War. The second suit challenges the termination of two conservative chaplains from a VA program for quoting scripture and praying "in Jesus' name." A third suit against acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning alleges that an Air National Guardsman was punished for expressing his disapproval of homosexual "weddings" in the West Point Chapel. Military-Veterans Advocacy also represents an Army soldier punished for serving Chik-Fil-A at a promotion ceremony and a former Navy Chaplain.

"These are restrictions for the religious rights of the veterans as well as the volunteers," said Wells. "That isn't allowed by the Constitution of the United States. This could be the grounds for another lawsuit, but we need to seek legislation to be enacted that will give veterans the same protection that has recently been enacted for active duty service members."