The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has ordered a review of all VA policy prohibiting guests from wishing patients a Merry Christmas after four VA hospitals – including Augusta’s Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center – prevented letters, gifts and carols that contained religious phrases from being sung or delivered.
Committee chairman, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), has sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki demanding an overview of the steps the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking to correct this “potential infringement of basic constitutional rights”, the paper reports.
Miller said he wants to know by Monday what is being done to hold the VA employees responsible for the incidents.
“Christmas was declared a federal holiday by our government in the 1800s, and it is not up to the department to decide whether veterans, their families, volunteers, and veterans service organizations should be free to sing Christmas carols or exchange Christmas gifts within VA facilities,” Miller said in a statement.
The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta recently told high school students they could not perform religious-based carols at the site.
Media reports indicate that VA officials in Iowa City, Iowa, told American Legion representatives they could not hand out gifts to veterans if the wrapping paper included the words “Merry Christmas.”