Hundreds spend Fourth of July prot
Hundreds of people spent the Fourth of July demonstrating at a cemetery in Texas because the cemetery director banned the use of the words “God” and “Jesus” during burial rites.
In a rally that was organized by the Houston Area Pastor Council people came wearing red, white and blue colors and waving American flags. They gathered at the Hemicycle of the Houston National Cemetery, demanding the resignation of its director, Arleen Ocasio, The Houston Chronicle said.
Included among the demonstrators were people from a number of veterans groups and residents from the area. They affirmed support for a lawsuit filed by Liberty Institute, a nonprofit group, on behalf of Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4, American Legion Post 586, and National Memorial Ladies, according to the AP.
The lawsuit says Ocasio and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the invocation of the names “God” and “Jesus” during burial rites and also stated that religious messages must first be submitted to her for approval by families of the deceased, The Houston Chronicle said.
“The local director needs to be removed because of the harshness in which she violates the First Amendment – free exercise of religion and freedom of speech,” U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Houston, said in a letter to DVA, the AP reported.
Poe also sought an independent investigation saying, “Really, this cemetery doesn’t belong to the VA. It belongs to those buried here and their families,” according to the AP
A civic duty
Among those attending the rally were Steve Cranston, 58, who is both a pastor and a Marine veteran. He came with his wife Judy, 66.
Cranston told The Houston Chronicle, “We felt it was one of the best ways we could have spent this time of the Fourth of July. We feel like its our duty.” His wife added, “I believe the ones who are already buried here would be right with us.”
Another demonstrator, Kathleen Carpenter, told the AP, “To be able to take away the chapel where people pray, to be able to take away the right to say God and God bless America…many of these soldiers love God.”
Slap in the face
Vietnam veteran Jim German said to The Houston Chronicle, “I have a lot of friends who are buried out here, and who paid the ultimate price. To have the director of this facility try to censor religious speech, to censor the name of God, is a slap in the face to not only every American who believes in God, but it’s a slap in the face to every veteran who fought for our freedom.”