From the Liberty Institute’s LIBERTY WATCH, Kelly Shackelford, October 20, 2011 – Judge Orders VA to End Religious Hostilities at National Cemeteries
Liberty Institute is pleased to announce a victory for the nation’s veterans, for their families, and for freedom. Since May, Liberty Institute has been fighting for religious freedom at the cemeteries run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This week, Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes signed a consent decree ordering the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to stop banning prayer and the mention of “God” at events, including funerals, held at national cemeteries. The case, Rainey v. VA, initially concerned the Houston National Cemetery. But when attorneys from Liberty Institute questioned authorities at the top levels of the VA, they uncovered national policies that are hostile to religion. The VA must now change these policies to ensure that religious liberty is protected. The Houston National Cemetery must also reopen its chapel, which had been closed and used as a storage room.
Honor guards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion were being prevented from praying or mentioning “God” at military funerals at the Houston National Cemetery. As a result of Houston National Cemetery’s policies, families were being deprived of the full VFW or The American Legion burial ritual. The National Memorial Ladies, who provide condolence cards to families of veterans at funerals, were being prevented from writing “God Bless.” The consent decree stops all of this unlawful religious discrimination. Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute’s general counsel, explained, “The decree not only impacts religious freedom in Houston, but all VA cemeteries nationwide.”
Liberty Institute to File at Supreme Court to Save Mount Soledad Cross
The full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced this week it is refusing to review a January ruling by its three-judge panel, calling for the removal of the memorial cross atop Mt. Soledad near San Diego, California. In April of this year, Liberty Institute was retained to represent the Mount Soledad Memorial Association in the 20-plus year effort to preserve this cross, which is part of a memorial that also contains brick steps and 6 concentric walls with plaques honoring more than 2,800 veterans. Since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of another memorial cross, the Mojave Veterans Memorial, Liberty Institute will appeal this case to the United States Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Mulling Whether to Accept Utah Highway Cross Case
The Supreme Court will meet on October 28 to discuss whether or not to hear a case regarding the display of crosses on Utah highways to honor state troopers killed in the line of duty. New Jersey-based American Atheists, Inc. filed the case in 2005 on behalf of three of its Utah members. At issue are fourteen crosses, each bearing a trooper’s name, rank, and badge number plus the symbol for the Utah Highway Patrol. Most of the crosses are on public property. The attorney for the atheists claims the case is not worthy of the high court’s attention because skirmishes over roadside crosses on state land do not pose a widespread problem.