Confusion over religious policies sparks VA to make revisions

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON DC (NEXSTAR) – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says its facilities have been confused about the VA’s policies on religious symbols.

So, the VA recently came out with revised instructions that the agency says will protect the religious freedom of veterans and their families.

While the conservative Heritage Foundation has praised the VA’s action, some religious and non-religious organizations are suspicious of the VA’s motives.

“The majority of people in the military are of faith. They believe in a religion,” said Air Force Veteran Talib Shareef.

Christians, Muslims, Jews and those of other faiths all serve our country in the Armed Forces.

“You see the Bible, you see this Quran, you may see a Torah,” Shareef said.

Shareef is an Air Force veteran and a Muslim.

“I wanted to practice that. Of course, it wasn’t easy having a place to pray,” he said.

And the Heritage Foundation says it’s not easy for Christians, either.

They say at some VA facilities, you can’t find a Bible.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says its facilities have been confused about its policies on religious symbols.

“I would say people were interpreting it differently. I mean, this is a separation of church and state so obviously government organizations, agencies, institutions have to be very careful with that,” Shareef said.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie recently issued revised instructions that the agency says will protect the religious freedom of veterans and their families.

Wilkie said VA facilities can display copies of religious texts instead of forcing veterans and their families to bring their own.

But now, the atheist Freedom from Religion Foundation is not happy.

They wrote to Secretary Wilkie, arguing the VA should, “keep its facilities free from government-endorsed religion.”

Shareef said he has spent a lot of time at VA facilities and never saw anyone or anything denied on a religious basis, but he said he understands the importance of the government not showing a preference.

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