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://Weaareturningintoaathiestcountry Quentin Riha

    Take that heritic woman and send her to China or some other non believers country. How disgusting that we put up with crap like that in our country

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Janice M. Curry

    Don’t people get it. This country was founded on the principles of religious freedom. You get to worship as you choose. I think our forefathers would roll over in their graves to hear how some people translate the Bill of Rights. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Woodrow Smith

    She should be fired and run out of the country and exiled to a country of non-believers. How in the world did she get appointed to that position.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nancy

    Why must this nation re-write history to please the loudest complainers? The HOLY BIBLE, the National Anthem, our prayers. Yes this is the country of freedom however that does not mean you get to have human histroy re-writen just because it onesn’t suits your ideal of what you wanted it to say! All this politcally correct stuff is tearing the country apart. We should be paying closer attention to GOD and what he says about living together. Your history and my history may be differrent, but we need to respect those differences and learn from them and move on, not change what already is in the past.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Haime52

    So why even comply? Just go ahead and say what you want. Make them do something with the cameras rolling. Public outcry is more effective than a blog. Never surrender your convictions or they are not convictions.
    It may sound extreme, but many will fight and die for their country, few will stand and die for the convictions of the conscience.(Note that I did not say fight, in connection with conviction. That might depend what your convictions are.)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Donna M. Wittmeyer

    I pray that God has mercy on us that we have allowed some one to bully us into this position and that He pour His grace upon this woman in order that her heart may be softened and her stance changed.

  • Mary Kay Glunt

    I can understand her warning the ladies that this family is atheist, muslim, etc., and to edit their comments out of respect to the family’s faith (or lack thereof), but this article seems to be saying she is attempting to edit all religious references out of funerals. She is entitled to her beliefs, but every family is entitled to their own, even on government property. As a pastor, I would not be pre-submitting my prayers to an administrator for approval. This isn’t Communist Russia! I am looking forward to what the Veteran’s Administration’s response will be. I really don’t believe this is an edict that came down from “above” (Washington, that is).

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David Hill

    We all know how this moron got appointed! This MARXIST regime is getting way out of hand. Some of us fought for this country and a whole lot died for her and to let these POS try and destroy this country and our GOD GIVEN FREEDOMS AND RIGHTS will not stand. NEVER GIVE INTO THESE Pieces Of Shit!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment usworker

    To hell with them … they got to beiieve in something .. and Hell is the alternative .. so .. to Hell with them…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Timby

    Just another sign of the end times. A falling away or morals and values. It’s a shame that this woman was allowed to do this. So what’s the penalty for including God in the prayers? I for one would risk my job.

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