There is a big court battle brewing in Houston, Texas over claims that the Department of Veteran Affairs is censoring religious speech at the funerals of veterans at Houston National Cemetery. While I have no intention of getting into a discussion about religion here at SpouseBUZZ, one line in an article about this story is truly unbelievable, and deserves some scrutiny.
Arleen Ocasio is the cemetery director and appears to be at the center of the controversy. The quote from the story which made my hair stand on end is this:
According to court documents, Ocasio banned members of the groups from using certain religious words such as "God" or "Jesus," censored the content of prayer, and forbade the use of religious messages in burial rituals unless the deceased's family submitted the text to her for prior approval.What?
She must approve religious messages? I'd like to know if she's previously disapproved, or altered text.
The decedent and/or the decedent's family have every right to conduct the funeral in the manner they so choose. They select the music, prayers, and readings. They also have the right to plan a funeral free of religious sentiment. Thankfully, I haven't had much experience in funeral planning. I'm sure a funeral director or minister could veto an outrageous, over-the-top request, but it's been my experience that funerals are typically events where you do not see outrageous behavior or ridiculous stagecraft. Religious messages read or displayed at funerals are universally acceptable sentiments and certainly don't need prior approval from anyone involved in the process.
I'm trying to imagine myself in the shoes of the families of veterans who have to fight such an unnecessary battle. While I'd like to think I'd be a composed widow, something tells me I wouldn't take very kindly to a stranger vetoing an appropriate request and, pardon the expression, "playing God" with the funeral of my family member.
If you are to believe the article, Ms. Ocasio appears to be utterly hostile to religion, which is certainly her right. But she also comes across as a control freak who seems to believe she should have the last word on how the funerals of people she doesn't even know will be conducted.