Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is concerned that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showed disrespect for Christians and censored Christmas in its facilities. He contends that the VA medical facility in Augusta, Georgia, banned carolers from singing Christmas songs containing religious references in public areas of the hospital (and carolers declined the offer to sing songs on a list of government-approved songs); VA officials in Iowa City, Iowa, informed volunteers from the American Legion they were unable to give gifts to veterans if they were wrapped with decorative paper containing the words “Merry Christmas”; VA personnel in Montgomery, Alabama, prevented a woman from delivering gift bags to veterans because they contained the words “Merry Christmas”; and the Dallas, Texas, VA medical facility refused the delivery of handwritten Christmas cards from local school children because phrases such as “Merry Christmas” and “God Bless You” were written in them.
Daniel Dellinger, National Commander of the American Legion, stated in regard to the incident in Texas, “First of all, VA’s decision to prohibit the delivery of Christmas cards that mention Christmas is ludicrous. Second of all, VA has been down this road before, and recently. VA has been warned through a federal court decree to stop denying freedom of religious expression at its facilities. It’s pretty obvious the Dallas VA did not get that memo.” Dellinger added, “Christians are more and more often targeted for censorship and restriction at VA facilities.”
In a letter sent to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rep. Miller declared, “In taking it upon themselves to restrict Christmas cards, carols and gifts in certain locations, VA officials clearly ignored longstanding federal government traditions, basic common sense and possibly a 2011 federal consent decree that ordered VA not to ban religious speech.” He demanded that Shinseki hold personnel responsible for possible constitutional and civil rights violations. Rep. Miller set up an e-mail address in order for VA staff, patients, and volunteers to report acts of religious prohibition. It is: firstname.lastname@example.org