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Congressman: VA limited distribution of Christmas cards, gifts

Jan. 6, 2014 at 2:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A Republican congressman says some Veterans Administration hospitals may have violated some patients' civil rights by limiting Christmas activities.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., says some VA administrators restricted the delivery of Christmas-specific cards, singing of Christian carols and the distribution of gifts wrapped in Christmas paper, Military Times reported.

In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki Friday, Miller said the actions may have violated patients' rights to celebrate both a government-approved holiday and their own religious traditions.

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., sent a similar letter to Shinseki. Both asked Shinseki to investigate the incidents.

In his letter, Miller said President Obama lit the national Christmas tree using "well-chosen" remarks that did not proselytize or impose religious views.

The actions by the VA administrators "clearly ignored longstanding federal government traditions, basic commonsense and possibly a 2011 federal consent decree that ordered VA not to ban religious speech," Miller said.

A 2011 ruling by a federal judge prohibited officials at a VA cemetery in Houston from "editing, controlling or excising" speeches at the cemetery.

A VA spokesman said the department accepts religious cards and Christmas carols "for our patients who celebrate Christmas, as we do for veterans who celebrate religious holidays of all faiths."

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