Traverse City Record-Eagle


August 10, 2013

Fact Check: Christian prayers prevented at military funerals? No


ForAmerica posted an image July 11, 2013, to its Facebook page with a claim about the Houston National Cemetery.

An image posted on Facebook by the conservative group ForAmerica says, “The Houston National Cemetery is preventing Christian prayers from being said at military funerals!”

ForAmerica, which according to its website is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Reston, Va., urges Facebookers to “like” the image “if you agree this is wrong!”

Well, turns out it is wrong — just not in the way ForAmerica meant.

“That’s an old story,” Houston National Cemetery director Mat Williams told us by phone. “We got a bunch of calls about that. But it’s not true.”

ForAmerica spokesman Keith Appell told us the image and an accompanying blog entry, posted July 11, 2013, were based on a item posted the day before on the conservative website and a July 9 report from the Family Research Council, a conservative, Christian group based in Washington, D.C.

The Breitbart item and the council’s report said that on July 26, 2011, U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, “determined that Houston National Cemetery was preventing Christian prayers from being said at military funerals.”

Such allegations about the 430-acre cemetery in northwest Houston resulted in legal action in 2011 that drew national attention, according to Houston Chronicle news stories from June 28, 2011, Sept. 22, 2011, and Dec. 12, 2011 and an Oct. 20, 2011, KHOU-TV news story.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes granted a temporary restraining order May 26, 2011, that allowed a pastor to deliver his Memorial Day invocation as written after the clergyman said then-director Arleen Ocasio told him not to say “Jesus Christ” in the service held at the cemetery, where nearly 70,000 service members and veterans and their spouses have been interred since its dedication in 1965.

Ocasio, according to a Aug. 30, 2011, New York Times news story, “began enforcing a little-noticed 2007 policy that prohibits volunteer honor guards from reading recitations — including religious ones — in their funeral rituals, unless families specifically request them.” U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs officials said the policy originated after “complaints about religious words or icons being inserted unrequested into veterans’ funerals,” the Times story said.

Text Only

Opinion Poll
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow