Liberty Institute Files Second Amended Complaint Against Dept. of Veterans Affairs/ Houston National Cemetery; Truth Bombs #3 and #4: Widows Speak Out Against VA’s Religious Hostilities / Interference at Funerals
HOUSTON, August 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, Liberty Institute filed a second amended complaint in Rainey v. VA, adding new clients, including Lisa Ward and Geraldine “Geri” Lakey to the case – widows whose husbands were recently laid to rest at the Houston National Cemetery and whose funerals were interrupted and impacted by Cemetery Officials and the VA’s policies and procedures placing restrictions on references to “God” and prayer at military funerals. The widows are added to the case alongside Pastor Scott Rainey, VFW District 4, The American Legion Post 586, and the National Memorial Ladies.
“I am very, very brokenhearted,” said Lisa Ward, whose husband’s funeral had to be moved to a private chapel so that she could include the VFW Ritual in the service. “Richard served in the military for more than 30 years and wanted to be buried with full military honors. I can’t redo my husband’s funeral.”
Because Mrs. Ward had to move her husband’s ceremony to a nearby chapel, those in attendance could not see members of the honor guard as they performed the rifle salute or played Taps, they could only hear from afar.
Geri Lakey’s wishes to have the VFW ritual performed at her husband’s funeral were nearly thwarted by a VA Official who lied to the VFW Honor Guard claiming that the family wanted the shortened VFW ritual (the full VFW Ritual, practiced for nearly 100 years, contains a prayer and speeches by the Commander and Chaplain, which the Houston National Cemetery has restricted). Fortunately for Mrs. Lakey, the Commander of VFW Post 2427, Bill Shaffer, a good friend of the Lakey family, intervened to protect and respect the wishes of Mrs. Lakey.
“The unconstitutional policies, practices, and customs of the VA and the Houston National Cemetery officials interfered with the wishes of these grieving families,” said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO of Liberty Institute. “In some instances, these government officials unnecessarily interjected themselves into veterans’ burial services inflicting emotional distress and mental anguish upon the families of the deceased veterans.”
Liberty Institute will be back in court on Monday at 9 a.m. CDT for a status conference with Federal District Judge Lynn Hughes in the case, which began when Liberty Institute client Pastor Scott Rainey was told he couldn’t pray in Jesus’ name at the cemetery. The hearing is at the federal courthouse in Houston, located at 515 Rusk Avenue, Houston, Texas, 77002. Liberty Institute attorneys and clients will offer remarks following the hearing.
Liberty Institute works to uphold First Amendment freedoms in the courts, legislature and public square.
SOURCE Liberty Institute