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Beliefnet News

Houston National Cemetery defies judge, bans “God bless you” from veterans’ funerals

Three national veterans groups have filed a 26-page complaint in federal court that officials at the Houston National Cemetery have defied the court’s order to quit censoring prayer and banning the words “God” and “Jesus” from funeral services.

Despite a Memorial Day injunction by federal judge Lynn Hughes, local veterans say the Department of Veterans Affairs has continued to censor their prayers, eulogies and traditional ceremonies in violation of their First Amendment guarantees that the government will not impede their free exercise of religion or their freedom of speech.

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Memorial Ladies cited “religious hostility” at the cemetery, charging that the cemetery’s director, Arleen Ocasio, bans religious phrases and requires prayers to be submitted in advance for her approval. She has also turned the cemetery chapel into a meeting room, they said.


“We were told we could no longer say “God bless you” and “God bless your family,” said Marilyn Koepp, a volunteer with the National Memorial Ladies. “How did I feel? I probably shouldn’t say how I felt because it was absolutely apalling that this woman would come aboard and tell us we can not say ‘God bless you.’ What is happening to our country?”

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Since when does the Veterans Administration decide what individual families in Houston, and who knows where else, use at their families funerals? This isn’t freedom telling the American Legion, Americans of Foreign Wars, etc. that they can’t use their faith in saying farewell to their loved ones, or to suggest firing the last gun salute should be forgotten. In group settings where their are other faiths involved with Veteran Affairs this might apply but not what they are trying to do in Houston. This is ridiculous, and shouldn’t be allowed. The First Ammendment guarantees that the government will not impede Americans freedom of religion and free speech. Arlene Ocasio is trying too hard, she needs to use her ability to comprehend our Constitution or get another job. Google this and get more info, as I did.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    censorship is sad and has no place in a free country founded on prayer.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jack Anderson

    Ocasio needs to be sent back to Mexico where she belongs. As a Vietnam Veteran Ocasio or anyone else, like her blackass president would not dictate what is said at my funeral. An if i had an immediate family member who died, I would not allow any Mexican or anyone else to tell me what was said or not said at the funeral. Ocasio and people who think like her (Obama) better wake up. Americans are not going to allow this type of behavior to continue.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Frank

    I am a Canadian citizen and I just appalled that this type of communist censorship can be tolerated by the authorities. The director of this cemetery should immediately apologize for offending families, resign or be removed from his position.

    If the deceased person were a Muslim and the families had invoked Allah, I’m sure the situation would not be the same.

    Shame on the director Arleen Ocasio!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Houston Resident if what you are saying is the way it is someone should go into google and correct it. We were to a few Veterans funerals in the last few years, and it was as you mentioned.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment LJ

    This woman needs to be striped of her job. I believe in God and will never allow anyone to stop me from using His name.

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