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VA overhauls religious and spiritual symbol policies to protect religious liberty

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently revised its directives permitting religious literature, symbols and displays at VA facilities to protect religious liberty for Veterans and families while ensuring inclusivity and nondiscrimination.

The move aims to simplify and clarify the department’s policies governing religious symbols, and spiritual and pastoral care, which have been interpreted inconsistently at various VA facilities in recent years, resulting in unfortunate incidents that interrupted certain displays.

Effective July 3, these changes will help ensure that patrons within VA have access to religious literature and symbols at chapels as requested and protect representations of faith in publicly accessible displays at facilities throughout the department.

“We want to make sure that all of our Veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These important changes will bring simplicity and clarity to our policies governing religious and spiritual symbols, helping ensure we are consistently complying with the First Amendment to the U.S.Constitution at thousands of facilities across the department.”

The new policies will:

  • Allow the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities.
  • Allow patients and their guests to request and be provided religious literature, symbols and sacred texts during visits to VA chapels and during their treatment at VA.
  • Allow VA to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the important role religion plays in the lives of many Americans and its consistency with Constitutional principles. This includes the following values: a display that follows in the longstanding tradition of monuments, symbols and practices; respect and tolerance of differing views; and endeavors to achieve inclusivity and nondiscrimination.

This is a press release from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. 

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Raymond Davis

    July 12, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    Will Bibles still be present on POW tables?

  2. Wayne McIntyre

    July 15, 2019 at 7:48 am

    I second that question and Mr. Davis needs an answer.
    I’m sure that his ministry depends on the Word of God to be available.

  3. James Pearson

    July 15, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Does this allow for having a crucifix cross stay on the wall of a VA Medical Center chapel or is it only allowed on the wall during the times of use for Christian services?

  4. Steve Dominick

    July 15, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Who are you Jessica Szilagyi? What part/department/person at the VA do we direct our questions?

    • Jessica Szilagyi

      July 15, 2019 at 6:41 pm

      I published the article on this site. This site is not affiliated with the VA.

  5. Nancy Merbitz

    July 15, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    If a crucifix is displayed, will other religious totems also be displayed, such as the star and crescent of Islam and the Minorah of Judaism?
    How about the literature I find left around our VA telling people to convert to (a particular version of ) Christianity or be damned to eternal hell? When do threats like that cross a line beyond freedom of speech?

  6. J Beantown

    July 15, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Lot of hall monitors. Neat trick I learned years ago… If you don’t like or subscribe to a religion, don’t practice it. If you do like or subscribe to a religion practice it and if you feel your faith is being misrepresented or not adequately represented…represent it.

  7. l kaster

    July 16, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    Jessica Szilagyi why don’t you publish a website where these questions can be answered?

    • Jessica Szilagyi

      July 16, 2019 at 10:10 pm

      Because that isn’t my job. My job is to report the news. You can already go to the VA website and contact the federal agency with questions and feedback.

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