Judge Orders VA to Lift Cemetery Prayer Ban

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After months of litigation, the Department of Veterans Affairs will cease banning prayer and the mention of God and Jesus at national cemeteries, the Liberty Institute announced Wednesday.

Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes signed a consent decree ordering the administration to lift the ban.

"We are thankful that after almost five months of litigation, the government is finally doing the right thing by entering into a consent decree and ending religious hostility at the Houston National Cemetery," said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute. 

"The decree not only impacts religious freedoms in Houston, but at all VA cemeteries nationwide because the government has agreed to modify two national policies hostile to religion," he added.
  
The ruling stems from a case that started before Memorial Day, when the federal agency told a civilian pastor he couldn't pray in Jesus' name at a ceremony at the Houston National Cemetery.
    
The Liberty Institute sued as a result.

"This was the government telling a private group that in their ceremony, 'We're going to tell the pastor you invited what he can pray,'" said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the Liberty Institute.

"Some people might say, 'Yeah, but it was at the VA Cemetery.' But it's like somebody renting a government facility, standing on a government sidewalk," he explained.

"The idea that the government can come into a private ceremony by a private group and then tell the pastor who's praying in that what he can pray is beyond an overreach," Shackelford added.

The Liberty Institute uncovered several cases of the VA censoring religious freedoms. The government has agreed it won't allow such incidents to happen anymore.

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