A church/state story from Fayetteville, NC, is being misreported by Americans United.
… [T]wo veterans are throwing a fit over a policy at the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center that keeps a cross and Bible stored in the center’s chapel, instead of on permanent display. That policy, according to VA officials, is straightforward: their chapels are to remain accessible to all persons, not just Christians. So the cross and Bible have been moved from the chapel’s altar to the chaplain’s office where they can be retrieved for use during Christian worship.
In fact, their complaint is that in the name of neutrality a cross and Protestant Bible were removed, and anyone who wants it has to go to the office (when it is open), but a crucifix, kneeler, and Catholic Bible remain in the chapel. That isn’t neutrality. See the Fayetteville Observer (and another story), and the op-ed by Joseph Kinney.
Anyone who scrutinizes the VA’s chapel “neutralization” policy implementation will be stunned. The Protestant cross and Bible have been removed but the Catholic crucifix, kneeler, and Bible (four more books than the Protestant Bible) remain. Why the difference? Appointments of VA (and military) priests come through a bishop in Washington who has informed the VA that its sacramental elements must not be removed. Hence, the chapel must be “neutralized” of Protestant elements, not Catholic. How can this be explained?
The newspaper notes this and gives the hospital director’s response:
A Catholic display, including a crucifix, kneeler and Catholic Bible, has been allowed to remain in the chapel, though it has been partitioned off from the main part of the room.
Kinney and Pitt have argued that because the Catholic items were allowed to remain, the Protestant ones should have stayed as well.
Triplett said that because he is following federal Veterans Affairs regulations, it is not his decision to make. He said the federal directives allow the Catholic articles to stay in the chapel.
It’s a federal hospital, and it should be neutral–this means the Catholic items have to go, too.