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Volunteer: Vets Hospital Taking Away Freedom of Religion, Speech

Posted December 14, 2007

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— It's a house of worship with none of the symbols. There are no crosses or Bibles on display at the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center chapel. Blinds cover elaborate stained glass windows.

The reason is a federal policy from the 1950s, but one volunteer says it has been taken too far.

Laud Pitt plans to hand out Christmas cards at the hospital Tuesday. But to do it, he says, he'll have to be escorted by the chaplain.

"Isn't that a waste of money for a chaplain to spend that much time making sure I say the right thing?" Pitt said.

Pitt said he has been told he can no longer read scripture to patients or pray with them, because it's against policy.

“I think it's a travesty,” he said.

It's the latest in a series of discouraging news to the Vietnam veteran, who was already upset about changes in the hospital chapel.

“They've taken away freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” Pitt said.
Bibles, crosses and fine linens have been put in a closet and are available only upon request. A spokesperson said the hospital is just following VA policy written in the 1950s.

When not in use for a religious service, the chapel must be maintained as religiously neutral, reflecting no particular faith, the spokesperson said.

“These men fought for our country, and they are due all the dignity and respect they can possibly get,” Pitt said. “I don't want them praying against a blank wall or a bowl full of plastic flowers."

Tuesday will be Pitt's last visit as a volunteer at the VA Medical Center, he said.

Meanwhile, a conservative non-profit agency has been looking at legal options. An attorney from the Rutherford Institute asked the medical center to restore the Christian chapel and open a separate interfaith room.

101 Comments

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  • leo-nc Dec 16, 2007

    ...and we all wonder why our society is worse than its ever been. Interestingly enough, we continue on the same path. Sad.

  • syracuseinwonderland Dec 16, 2007

    "I know that Air Foce Chaplains can no longer pray with the troops on the flightline or anywhere else outside of the base chapel. This country is becoming as Godless as communist countries. All because of a few who are not believers."
    bruise

    Why do you feel the need to pray in the workplace? If one wants to pray with the Chaplain, they can do it at the chapel on their own time.

  • WRALSUCKS Dec 16, 2007

    Political correctness run amok... Again!

  • california girl Dec 16, 2007

    Truthfully after reading all the comments from many Christians, I really will never become Christian. Too many comments are about we lost our way and need to let God in our lives. Well beteen plagues, mass murder, persecution, locusts, etc etc. I would rather be atheist where my own conscience tells me how to treat people and how to behave. Instead of having my soul warned that if I do not live a certain way then I am doomed. This sounds very vengeful and cruel. Not what I want. I am not the only person that feels this way. There may be many others at the VA that do not want to be preached at. That is a freedom.

    Also after dealing with the general public for 10 years I have noticed that the meanest, rudest people are those who come from church ( in their 60000 dollar cars no less ) then come to where I work treating us all like servants and less then dirt under their foot. I guess they have atoned for their sins for the week and are starting over again.

  • wwyoud Dec 16, 2007

    Note that Mr. Pitt has to be escorted, and has been asked not to read the bible - not all volunteers. WRAL seems to have decided not to do a balanced story; I'd like to hear the VA's side. If Pitt has been proselytizing instead of supporting those who've asked for the words, then he deserves to be limited. And all the barking about christian rights - 40 years ago, catholics and jews had a hard time finding homes in NC for sale; it simply would become "unavailable" because the protestant owners didn't want those people living nearby. And if you were muslim or buddhist, you might as well have been a satanist. People who weern't christian simply stayed in the closet because of the intolerance of so many christians; it meant harassment and discrimination at work, home, and socially, and sometimes meant being run out of town or worse. So I prefer that a veteran not have to deal with some pushy nut of any faith when trying to recover from an illness, which is what the VA seems to be doing.

  • The Fox Dec 15, 2007

    The way of the Cross is the True path, and that is why it is attacked and reviled by the fearful. Other religions pose no threat as their gods are dead.

  • bomanicous Dec 15, 2007

    I just don't understand how people get offended by people practicing their religion (whatever it may be). I think they're just childish cowards that want to take away everyone elses rights and push for immoral tolerance. I'm not a practicing christian or any other faith but to be offended is stupid, I don't even notice it until someone whines about it They are the same people that think it's ok for men to have sex with each other in parks.

  • patriotsrevenge Dec 15, 2007

    Lizard, sorry for the delayed response....plumbing problems. My friend, I'm not fighting for the "other side". I believe that Jesus himself taught us that there is no "other side", when it comes to other human beings. There are only those that haven't found the truth. But, I caution you, Jesus NEVER forced himself on anyone, he gave everyone a choice, and we, as Christians have failed to follow that way of thought. I firmly believe the VA is doing the right thing, be gentle in your persuasion of others, lead by example and others will follow.

  • mayor Dec 15, 2007

    There are so many posts that this has probably been said - if so, forgive.....It is my fault that this is happening. I sat silently and let ONE person complain, hire a lawyer, get the ACLU, NAACP, the PDQ

  • lizard Dec 15, 2007

    tmedlin - good point, while some different types come out of the closet the Christians have to go in.

    I see alot of guilt in many people's statements here. They think they're being forced to believe or Christians think less of them or we're calling them names, etc. Nothing but guilt, sports fans. Everyone is here for just a whif of a moment and then eternity begins. Many will decide to follow they're own base desires and assume there's a cure that can be given later when they develop problems because of their lifestyle. They'll moan about the tobacco industry peddling death but say little about the other issues that lead to the same ending.

    Oh well. Guess I'll just knock the dust off my shoes and beat it on down the highway.

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