Update: The VA’s treatment of Christianity over the past Christmas has caught the attention of Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), among others.
A VA official quoted the policy which is in the Veterans Health Administration handbook:
“In order to be respectful of our veterans’ religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff led by chaplaincy services and determined if they are appropriate (non-religious) to freely distribute to patients. We regret this process was not fully explained to this group and apologize for any misunderstanding.”
Apparently, this wasn’t the only Christmas event in which Christianity was censored:
In Iowa City, American Legion members were told they could not hand out presents to veterans if the wrapping paper said Merry Christmas.
High school students from the Alleluia Community School were told they could sing about Frosty the Snowman but not the Baby Jesus at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga.
Instead, when they arrived to perform, the students were given a list of 12 Christmas songs provided by the hospital’s pastoral service that had been “deemed appropriate for celebration within the hearing range of all veterans.”
It’s not immediately clear how censoring Christian content is “respectful of our veterans’ religious belief” or “appropriate for celebration,” nor how the government can censor speech and religious expression based on religious content — according to the Liberty Institute, which has threatened “legal action” over this governmental “viewpoint discrimination.”
The great irony is that most veterans served by the VA probably wouldn’t be offended by (and likely would have appreciated) a child’s hand-drawn “Merry Christmas” or a school chorus “Silent Night” — just as they probably would have appreciated a “Happy Hanukkah” message a few weeks earlier, even if they weren’t Jewish. The VA has likely offended more veterans by censoring religion than it would have by allowing traditional recognition — and to what end?
Interesting, too, that the VA recognizes Christmas as a federal holiday, but it won’t allow schoolchildren to wish their veterans a “Merry Christmas.”