You may have read recent news reports about the Houston National Cemetery allegedly censoring religious speech during burial services. I don’t know all the details yet, but I do know that meticulous care and professionalism is inherent in the work of the National Cemetery Administration (and according to independent sources, they routinely outperform corporations and other government agencies in customer satisfaction). Still, nothing is perfect (especially in government), and it’s possible that mistakes and misunderstandings can happen.
So, I wanted to share some words offered yesterday by Keith Ethridge, the Director of VA’s National Chaplain Center:
“VA values and respects every Veteran and their family’s right to a burial service that honors their faith tradition. VA employs nearly one thousand chaplains who, every year, preside over thousands of religious burial services, representing Veterans of all faiths, in VA National Cemeteries across the country.
“Prayer is a very personal and sacred moment. To honor Veterans as they are laid to rest, VA Chaplains always pray and preside over religious services according to the Veteran’s faith tradition and the family’s wishes.”
As we get updates on the situation, we’ll post them here.
UPDATE 6/30 3:40 PM ET – VA spokesman Josh Taylor has just added this:
“Invoking the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed, it is common at VA National Cemeteries across the country. However, VA’s policy is that VA-sponsored honor guards should not make recitations at committal services unless requested to do so by the deceased’s survivor(s).”
UPDATE 7/1 4:00 PM ET – An update on the situation at the Houston Chronicle.