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Letter to the Editor on VA Covering Christian Symbols Leads to Statewide Outrage

Patsy Norton of Kingsford, MI recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Iron Mountain Daily News

EDITOR:

I went to the VA Hospital in Iron Mountain today on business. While there I stopped at the Chapel and found pinky-purple curtains with mesh at the top, covering the altar. (You know the type. They use them between sick patients in the hospital).

I stopped in my tracks, shocked at what I saw. I peeked behind the curtain, and found what used to be the welcoming part of the chapel, the Cross, a picture of Jesus, and other Christian icons familiar to the majority of Americans.

I found Chaplain Bob Mueller, to ask what the meaning was of this change. This is what he told me.

“A couple of months ago, an order came down from Washington DC to cover all things associated with Christianity in the VA. Their solution is to cover everything in all the VA Chapels across the country.”

Chaplain Bob went on to say, “A few weeks ago an official from the Madison VA came down here to tell me to ‘stop talking about Jesus, and to stop reading Scripture out loud.’”

Chaplain Bob also said that the rest of the Obama plan is to send more curtains to cover the rest of the stained glass windows, because there are Christian symbols on the stained glass.

These photos reveal future plans by the White House.

To use the same phrase President Obama so ‘eloquently’ used concerning other matters at the VA, ‘I’m mad as hell…”

As Americans, we need to stand together to stop this insanity.

Patsy Norton

Kingsford

 This letter was then responded to by Brad Nelson, Iron Mountain Public Affairs Officer for the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center

EDITOR:

There has recently been some misunderstanding regarding the chapel at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center. The most recent national VA policy dating back to July 2008 states that “chapels are appointed and maintained as places for meditation and worship, and when VA Chaplains are not providing or facilitating a religious service for a particular faith group, the chapel must be maintained as religiously neutral, reflecting no particular faith tradition.” This means that the Christian symbols and statues are not hidden when the chapel is used for Catholic Mass or protestant services or by groups or individuals that identify with the Christian faith.

The federal government recognizes the wide diversity of different faith groups in existence. The VA policy on Spiritual and Pastoral Care is to “uphold the free exercise of religion by all medical, domiciliary, and nursing home patients in the health care facility. This includes providing or facilitating appropriate worship opportunities.” It also requires that the chapel be available for all faiths for prayer, worship, meditation, etc. and therefore be religiously neutral when not used for services or by Christian-based groups. This allows for our patients and their families who do not identify with Christianity to use the room for prayer, meditation or reflection.

To facilitate this policy, curtains have been installed for the time being that can be opened for chapel services or when used by specific Christian faith groups or individuals for Bible study or prayer and drawn closed when the chapel is not used for these purposes. We are also checking with other VA medical centers to see how they comply with this policy while still honoring our heritage.

In a recent letter to the editor, it was also mentioned that our chaplains may not read scripture or talk about Jesus. Chaplain Mueller, who was quoted, told me that was not accurate. There are no prohibitions on chaplains reading scripture, talking about Jesus or praying in his name at chapel services, during ceremonies or when providing spiritual care to patient and families that identify with the Christian faith.

We do understand and appreciate the concern by people in our community regarding religious freedom, and we hope this provides some clarification.

Brad Nelson

Iron Mountain

Public Affairs Officer

Oscar G. Johnson

VA Medical Center

This is an issue that is popping up across the country. Steve Gruber spoke with Patsy Norton this morning on The Steve Gruber Show.

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How do you feel about the VA covering up religious symbols? Let us know in the comments section below.

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