VA to allow religious symbols at facilities

VA to allow religious symbols at facilities
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced Wednesday that it was revising its policies to allow religious literature, symbols and displays to exist in public areas at its facilities.

The agency said it is seeking to protect veterans’ religious liberty and clarify its policies, which the agency said have been interpreted “inconsistently” at different facilities.

The VA's updated policies will allow for religious content in publicly accessible displays at its facilities and permit patients and guests to obtain requested religious literature, symbols and sacred texts during their treatment at the facilities and at chapel visits.

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“We want to make sure that all of our Veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal,” VA Secretary Robert WilkieRobert Leon WilkieVA to allow religious symbols at facilities Overnight Health Care: Court allows Trump abortion referral ban to take effect | GOP group launches M blitz against 'Medicare for All' | Star GOP lawyer raises constitutional concerns with surprise billing legislation VA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides MORE said in a statement. “These important changes will bring simplicity and clarity to our policies governing religious and spiritual symbols, helping ensure we are consistently complying with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at thousands of facilities across the department.”

The VA will also start accepting donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to patrons “under appropriate circumstances.”

The VA referenced a Supreme Court ruling last month that said a large cross in Maryland built by the American Legion and known as the "Peace Cross" is constitutional and can remain in place. 

Religious liberty advocacy groups praised the new policies, saying they marked a victory for veterans. 

“This new VA policy is a welcome breath of fresh air,” said Mike Berry, director of military affairs for First Liberty Institute. “On the eve of our nation’s Independence Day, this is the perfect time to honor our veterans by protecting the religious freedom for which they fought and sacrificed."