IN THE MILITARY
Attorneys Defend Prosper Teacher and Her 52 Students, Turned Away from the Dallas VA Hospital with Their Hand-Written Christmas Cards
PROSPER, TX, December 24, 2013— Today, Liberty Institute, on behalf of Susan Chapman, a teacher and organizer of a Christmas card project for veterans, is sending a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs demanding the VA immediately rescind its discriminatory policies prohibiting school children from bringing Christmas cards to veterans in VA facilities that say “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You.” The teacher began the project at the suggestion of a parent. The teacher learned of the ban on Monday morning while attempting to deliver Christmas cards students from Grace Academy of North Texas made for the veterans at the VA hospital in Dallas.
View a copy of the demand letter here.
“It is so sad that the VA is sending a message to our children that after all the veterans have done to fight for freedom across the world, the children have no freedom to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘God Bless You’ to these honorable men and women,” said Susan Chapman, a teacher at Grace Academy of North Texas and the organizer of the Christmas card project for veterans.
James Meiseman, Commander of the Bill Bryan Post 110 of The American Legion (McKinney, Texas) added: “We served to defend the Constitution of the United States and we should be protecting the rights of these children to say Merry Christmas to the veterans not censoring them.”
This is not the first time the VA has been in legal trouble for engaging in religious censorship. In 2011, Liberty Institute uncovered national VA policies that unlawfully discriminated against religious speech that eventually led to a court order signed by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes that enforces a continuing consent decree prohibiting the VA from engaging in religious censorship.
“The VA is once again engaging in unlawful religious discrimination. It is shameful that the VA continues to censor religious speech in Christmas cards when the VA knows it is against the law to do so,” said Hiram Sasser, Director of Litigation for Liberty Institute. “What makes this situation so extraordinary is that the VA’s censors are now banning ‘Merry Christmas.’ The VA's stubborn refusal to abide by the law and their continued censorship and unlawful discrimination against religious speech will once again force us to go to federal court to vindicate the rights of children across the country.”
Paragraph 21 of the September. 22, 2011 federal court order banning the VA from engaging in religious discrimination orders the VA “not to ban religious speech or words, such as “God” and “Jesus,” in condolence cards or similar documents given by non-VAVS volunteer[s].” It also ordered the VA in paragraph 22 “not to ban, regulate, or otherwise interfere with the giving of gifts, including gifts that contain a religious message or viewpoint.” The consent decree remains in force and federal judge Lynn Hughes retains jurisdiction to enforce the consent decree until the year 2026.
About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.