On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

Federal cemetery defies judge, bans “Jesus” or “God bless you” from veterans’ funerals

American Legion members fire off a final farewell


Three national veterans groups have complained that officials at the Houston National Cemetery have defied a federal judge’s order to quit censoring prayer and banning the words “God” and “Jesus” from funeral services.


Despite a Memorial Day court order, local veterans say the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to censor their prayers, eulogies and traditional ceremonies in violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee that the government cannot impede the free exercise of religion or Americans’ freedom of speech.

A Veterans of Foreign Wars bugler


VFW officials salute a fallen comrade

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Memorial Ladies all complain of “religious hostility” at the cemetery. Their 26-page complaint alleges that the cemetery’s director, Arleen Ocasio, bans religious phrases and requires prayers to be submitted in advance for her approval.


“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?”

American Legion veterans pay their respects


“It’s just unfair that somebody would ask us to take God out of our vocabulary,” Cheryl Whitfield, founder of Houston chapter of the  National Memorial Ladies, told the Houston Chronicle. “I could’ve kept my mouth shut and let things happen, but when it comes to standing up for your belief in God and giving comfort to the families, I don’t want to regret not saying anything. We all had to stand up for what we believe in.”

“We are private citizens in a private organization, and yet we are restricted,” said John Spahr of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, which provides ceremonial guards and ceremonies for about 60 funerals a week to honor veterans and console families.

Veterans present the Stars and Stripes to a grieving family


Nobleton Jones said he felt belittled when he was told he couldn’t use the word “God” in his recitation to a family as he handed them a bag of shell casings from a gun salute. He was told he can no longer say, “We ask that God grant you and your family grace, mercy and peace.”

“That has been censored,” said Jones.

Last month, a local pastor won his fight to end his prayer in “Jesus’ name” at the cemetery’s Memorial Day ceremony.

A judge granted a stay against the VA and the prayers were allowed to go on without government oversight or editing.  U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes told Ocasio and Department of Veterans Affairs officials that they could not block Houston pastor Scott Rainey from invoking the name of Jesus Christ in a Memorial Day prayer.


CLICK HERE to read about the Memorial Day ruling

Judge Hughes told CNN that the government cannot “gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity.” He warned the VA that it had stepped too far, saying officials were essentially “decreeing how citizens honor their veterans.”

“But despite the judge’s warning, it seems the censorship has continued,” reports KTRH radio in Houston.

Cemetery Director Arlene Ocasio


Ocasio couldn’t be reached for comment.

Veterans allege the VA turned the cemetery’s chapel into a meeting room shortly after Ocasio came on board two years ago. They say they won’t back down from the fight.

“I am going to say ‘God bless you’ until I don’t know what would make me ever stop it,” said Koepp.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment carl

    who does this visitor in the united states think she is to make a ruling and defy a judge’s order in violation of the first amendment a oath of office includes defending the constitution of the united stated. did she forget her oath of office

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Gina

    This is completely nuts. She needs to be fired.

  • http://AChildofGOD&sonRLP Robert Lee PRESCOTT


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Debi

    Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . the greatest Name I know. Greater is He that is in me (and the rest of His followers) than he that is in the world. This woman needs help . . . first, right out the door, but also she needs Jesus, too. Until then, I am so thankful for the people that will fight to the end and not let this matter rest. I would be saying what I wanted to say anyway, not letting some crazy-minded person rule my words. I guess she thinks free speech is only for those who speak AGAINST God!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment ken smith

    This country was founded on the bible. In a court room, we are made as witnesses to swear upon the bible before we take the stand and testify. In God We Trust is being removed from our currency. Prayer was removed from schools. God was removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Our children nor others cannot sing any songs with even the slightest mention of God at national monuments or parks. A person cannot share the word of God to folks outside a public building as they wait in line for the DMV to open. Should I go on?
    But yet mosques and other religious establishments are being erected all throughout our nation. One company in Tennessee went as far as establishing a prayer room to acknowledge different religious beliefs.
    But those who believe in Christianity; are we suppose to hide within our homes and in our attics and basements just as the Jews did during Hitler’s reign.
    What is next ? The gas chambers? The ovens? Concentration camps erected throughout our country for those who don’t conform?
    People are already being persecuted for believing in Jesus Christ in other parts of the world. People are being slaughtered for their faith in God, the Son and The Holy Spirit. People are being experimented upon in some of these places.
    What is wrong with this nation? What is wrong with this world?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment ken smith

    I need to add something that relates to this and my previous comment.
    Do you know what the sad part about this is?
    I have found that even sharing this with others, both friends and family, that many people do not care.
    People have given up hope. I have read some sad, very sad stories both on this web site and on several others. Some would make some of us break down in tears. Some would even anger us. And yet still many do not care.
    At one time not long ago, I was asked to do some research for bible study, sort of homework; but I did not look it like that.
    I was fascinated finding articles, photographs, videos and other things showing archaeological digs revealing that Jesus did in fact exist
    The more I found out, the more excited I became. I wanted to shout and tell the world.
    What happened was I cried instead. I found that others showed no interest. Others did not care. People in church even showed no interest.
    I have to go now because just thinking about those events only reminds me of what Jesus endured during his last remaining days on earth in the physical body. I need to go cry for these people and ask that God forgives them.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Manuel

    I remember when I was in grade school how proudly we recited the Pledge of Alligiance specially the part “one Nation under God”. Were our personal values greater than today or were we thankful of what God had given us? First no more prayers in the schools (outlawed),then the mention of God or Jesus in public places banned. Now in the National cemetary the word God is banned by a Federal Judge. Many of our boys are buried there and don’t you think that to many the last worst said was GOD. I remeber when our country was great because our faith was put in God. Coins and paper money had those beautiful words “In God we trust” engraved and printed. Now that or those words are banned from our children’s mouth as if they were horrific word. May God have mercy of this country that has gone farther apart from Him.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment iamonewithhim

    This country was founded on God and the bible and its forefathers were mighty men of God. America must turn again to the Lord for protection and peace – this is supposed to be one nation under God – where are the religious freedoms that we espouse to other countries – now are we becoming hypocrites – even freedom of speech guarantees that we can speak of God, pray to God and invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Where is Pres. Obama in all this – when is he going to take a stand against the federal government hierarchy that is tearing everything good about this country down. Pres. Obama and his family are Christians – the least they can do is to stand with other Christians and fight this threat to our country.

    May God Bless America and all nations and don’t forget to pray for the peace of the world

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Charles

    This lady wants to go to Hell

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dorothy

    I am not American, but I know one thing for sure. God will not be blessing this woman and anyone else the follows in her steps.
    Keep up the fight.

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