Federal Judge Orders VA Cemetery to Allow Prayer in the Name of Jesus
A federal judge has ruled against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, saying it cannot stop a Houston pastor from using the words “Jesus Christ” in his Memorial Day invocation at the Houston National Cemetery.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled that “The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity.”
The prayer by the Reverend Scott Rainey of the Living Word Church of the Nazarene in Houston includes a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and it closes with one reference to Jesus: “While respecting people of every faith today, it is in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that I pray. Amen.”
Rainey says he has prayed this prayer at the VA cemetery on Memorial Day several times with no complaints, but this year he had to get it approved in advance. That’s when he was instructed to delete the reference to Jesus.
The Houston VA Cemetery Director informed Rainey “Our national cemeteries are places for all veterans, of all beliefs. We cannot be exclusive at a ceremony meant to be inclusive for all our nation’s veterans.”Rainey went to federal court to get a restraining order against the VA, and Judge Hughes granted it, saying “The right to free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Charlie Sheen’s rants.”
Rabbi Mark Miller of Houston’s Congregation Beth Israel says Rainey’s prayer is “beautiful”, but “it is a prayer to which I and many others cannot say ‘Amen.’ When we, as a religious community join together at special moments like Memorial Day, our strength will only increase if we can stand united before God.”