Victory for Our Veterans! Judge Orders VA to End Religious Hostilities at National Cemeteries

October 21, 2011

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.”

Visit for all the details on this important victory, including the judges’ order.  And, check out our new victory video on this case:

Truth Bomb #2 – National Memorial Ladies banned from telling mourning families “God bless you.”

August 19, 2011

The National Memorial Ladies, comprised of about 37 volunteers, attends approximately 60 funerals a week to ensure that no veteran is ever buried alone. The Ladies give handwritten condolence cards to the families of the deceased veterans. The Ladies are always sensitive to the religious background of the family, which they often ascertain from whether or not clergy is present at the burial and their interaction with and observance of the family members.

Houston National Cemetery Director Arleen Ocasio told members of the National Memorial Ladies that they must take “God” out of their vocabulary.

She told them that they could not speak nor write the words “God,” “Jesus,” “God bless you,” or even “I’m praying for you,” to grieving families burying their loved ones.

It’s so outrageous that you have to see it to believe it:

Please visit to sign our petition asking the VA to stop this religious discrimination.

Liberty Institute drops ‘Truth Bombs’: Veterans not allowed to say “God” at funeral services

August 18, 2011

Today, Liberty Institute launches a series of videos of those most affected by the Houston National Cemetery’s policies and procedures banning the mention of God and prayer during funeral services at the cemetery.  Liberty Institute will be back in court on Monday at 9 a.m. for a status conference with Federal District Judge Lynn Hughes in the Rainey et al. v. VA et al. case, which began when Liberty Institute client Pastor Scott Rainey was told he couldn’t pray in Jesus’ name at the cemetery.

The three-part video series features statements from members of the VFW District 4 Honor Guard, National Memorial Ladies volunteers, and deceased veterans’ families who were negatively affected by the VA’s policies and practices banning “God” and prayer.

Truth Bomb #1:  Veterans Speak Out, “We Just Want to Do Our VFW Ritual”

For more than 20 years, the VFW District 4 Honor Guard has performed the VFW burial ritual, which was written and approved by the VFW National Council of Administration nearly 100 years ago and includes references to God, at the Houston National Cemetery.

The new Houston National Cemetery Director Arleen Ocasio divided the almost century-old VFW burial ritual into two segments: so-called “core elements,” consisting of the flag folding and presentation, Taps, and the rifle salute; and the so-called “additions to the core elements,” speeches with religious elements by the Commander and prayer by the Chaplain. Director Ocasio originally told the VFW District 4 leadership that they could no longer do the “additions to the core elements,” i.e., prayer and speeches referring to God.

Subsequently, Director Ocasio mandated that families had to request the entire VFW ritual in writing, while prohibiting the VFW or the funeral homes from telling the families of the elements of the burial ritual or sharing the text of the ritual with them. Official VA policy prohibits the full ritual, unless specifically requested.

Director Ocasio also told VFW District 4 Honor Guard Vice Commander Nobleton Jones that he was not allowed to have direct contact with families to hand them shell casings from the rifle salute as he recited the words, “On behalf of the United States of America, a grateful nation, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I present you with these shell casings from the shots that were fired to honor our departed comrade. We thank him for his honorable service to our country. We thank you and your family for your support. We ask that God grant you and your family grace, mercy, and peace.”

Please visit to sign our petition asking the VA to stop this religious discrimination.

Social Studies Revisions: Religious Heritage, Independence Day Out?

July 15, 2009

Non-elected member of writing teams are considering changes to Social Studies curriculim which is up for review this year and next year, before the State Board of Education.

Proposed changes  to particular sections include:

   *Removing Independence Day & Veterans Day, in the section on holidays, customs, and celebrations.

   * Removing the current requirement to “describe how religion contributed to the growth of representative government in the American colonies.” (in the history of the revolution section).

   *  Removes Abraham Lincoln from suggested reading for children’s biography.

Wow, does this sound like revisionist history and a direct assault religion?  The religious discrimination and target on Texas values continues.  These are not changes being proposed by SBOE members.  These proposed changes are being made by non-elected persons.  Thank God the SBOE has the authority to accept or reject “writing team” proposed changes.  Just as 13 of the 15 SBOE members did with the Science issue.

Also, thank God that this information became available before these writing teams got further down the road and unloaded these bombshells later on when it would be harder to revise these proposed changes.

I am glad we have people in our state that believe in being good “watchdogs” and not letting this information by hidden from the public.

Click here to see the full excellent analysis by Brooke Terry of TPPF.

This is just the beginning of the Social Studies review, but more is sure to come and we’ll be at the SBOE meetings, observing and keeping you informed.

SBOE Announcement!! Gov. Perry Appoints Conservative to SBOE Chair

July 10, 2009

Update: Opposition is in full panic mode:  I don’t like to say “I told you so”, but the usual small group of Austin critics are already unleashing their fury on Gail Lowe, loosely throwing around words like “personal beliefs” and “creationist” (unsubtle code words for their targeted attack on Lowe for her religious beliefs) in their unhinged verbal attack of Lowe.  Even though at least one political news source considers Lowe a “moderate” of conservatives, it doesn’t matter to the Austin extreme left. Our point exactly — it doesn’t matter if its McLeroy, Dunbar, or Lowe, or any other SBOE conservative member, these political and religious attacks will continue, pretending to be something else.

The reason for the appointment is because 11 (all Democrats) of the 31 Texas Senators blocked the confirmation of Don McLeroy, citing to the New York Times for reasons to oppose McLeroy.  So Gov. Perry was forced to appoint another sitting SBOE member, to be chairman.  19 (all Republican) of the 31 (a majority) Texas Senators voted for McLeroy.

Gov. Perry Appoints Gail Lowe to State Board Chair

Free Market Foundation Applauds Conservative Appointment

AUSTIN, Texas – Today, Gov. Perry selected Gail Lowe to be the next chair of the State Board of Education (SBOE).  Gail Lowe, of Lampasas, Texas, is one of the more conservative SBOE members, and was first elected to the SBOE in 2002.  She previously served on the Lampasas Independent School District Board of Trustees and has volunteered countless hours in the classroom.  Following the Governor’s announcement, Free Market Foundation released the following statement:

“We applaud Gov. Perry for making an excellent choice for our new State Board of Education chair,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of Free Market Foundation.  “Gail Lowe is a strong conservative, representing Texas values, and has long been a leader in the field of education, in her local community, and in various roles as a State Board of Education member.” 

“Our state and our schoolchildren will benefit greatly from Mrs. Lowe’s service, care, and commitment as the new State Board of Education Chair,” said Jonathan Saenz, legislative director at Free Market Foundation.  “We hope that the usual critics will rise above their religious discrimination of the past and allow Mrs. Lowe to focus on the important education issues of our state,” said Jonathan Saenz, legislative director at Free Market Foundation.  

Free Market Foundation has worked on numerous issues before the State Board of Education, including recent testimony and key analysis on the science curriculum standards and Bible curriculum standards for Texas public schools.

For more information or for interviews, please call or email Jennifer Grisham, director of media, at (972) 423-8889 extension 102,, or (512) 879-7995.


You recall, that Don McLeroy’s confirmation as SBOE chairman was rejected earlier this year by 11 (all Democrats) of 31 Texas Senators.  Even though 19 of 31 Texas Senators voted “FOR” McLeroy, he needed a 2/3rds majority to be confirmed.  So 11 Texas Senators were able to block the will of the majority. 

The New York Times was cited as a source for basis of criticism on McLeroy, which lead some Senators to vote against him.  Some Texas Senators care more about what the N.Y. Times thinks, and less about Texans.

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