The Veterans Affairs Department now allows its large network of facilities and hospitals to display religious symbols and texts.
An old policy banned such religious symbols, texts, emblems, images and other religious elements. For example, many facilities had banned Christmas trees and carolers.
As reported by Government Executive, the new policy is proposed to ‘bring simplicity and clarity’ to religious policies across VA’s network.
“We want to make sure that all of our veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to Government Executive. “Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal.”
The new policy allows residents of VA facilities to request religious symbols and texts while under their care.
According to the National Chaplain Center, which oversees spiritual and religious leaders in all department healthcare facilities, the new policy is designed to protect religious freedom and to not support any religion or belief above another.
The National Chaplain Center will be educating facility faculty on the different significances of symbols and practices of various religions.
In announcing the change, VA cited the American Legion vs. American Humanist Association case, in which the Supreme Court ruled last month that a large cross that had stood on public property in Bladensburg, Maryland, for over 90 years could remain on display.
Government Executive that the Trump Administration was contorting the meaning of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case, said Richard B. Katskee, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“The government should allow residents of VA facilities to practice their faith as they choose,” Katskee told Government Executive. “It should not coerce a captive audience of veterans and their families to observe the beliefs of the government’s choosing. It’s distressing that the Trump administration would choose Independence Day, a holiday to celebrate our country’s freedoms and our veterans, to roll out a policy that dishonors both.”
To learn more about the issue visit Government Executive’s article.