Judge: Veteran Affairs Can't Bar 'Jesus' Prayer

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A Houston pastor has won the right to use Jesus' name in a Memorial Day ceremony. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing officials at Houston's National Cemetery from censoring his prayer.

Rev. Scott Rainey has given the invocation at a Memorial Day service at the cemetery the last two years. This year, however, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs ordered him to remove the name of Jesus from his prayer.
    
Rainey, represented by Liberty Institute, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Houston National Cemetery.

His attorneys argued the government couldn't restrict private speech even on public land.
 
"I have never said a prayer in my life where I didn't end it by saying, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen.' So it was an unrealistic expectation," said Rainey, who had been asked by a private group to give the invocation.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes agreed, ruling Thursday that the Constitution does not give the government the authority to compel emptiness in a prayer, where a prayer belongs."
    
After the ruling, attorneys for Veteran's Affairs changed their position on the case.
 
"Clearly Judge Hughes is following the law. It is very clear that a pastor has a right to speak his mind freely and not have the government censor or edit the content of his speech," attorney Jeff Mateer said.
    
Meanwhile, cemetery officials have issued a statement on the case, saying national cemeteries cannot be exclusive but must be inclusive for all veterans.

Houston television station KTRK reports clergy have offered prayers during Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery for about 30 years.

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