Saturday, May 28, 2011

Freedom of Speech: Government Concedes Pastor Can Pray in Jesus' Name on Memorial Day

SOURCE Liberty Institute

Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes granted a temporary restraining order preventing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its Director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, from preventing Pastor Scott Rainey from praying in Jesus' name during his invocation at a Memorial Day ceremony sponsored by the National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston (a private, non-profit association). At a conference with the judge moments ago, the government conceded and informed Pastor Rainey that it will not oppose his prayer on Memorial Day.

Judge Hughes ruled that such censorship and religious discrimination violates the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment. Pastor Rainey may now provide the invocation without government interference.

"The judge rightly and strongly ruled that the VA's attempt to censor Pastor Rainey's prayer violates the Constitution and dishonors the veterans Memorial Day is meant to honor," said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel of Liberty Institute. "We are glad that the government conceded that its position against Pastor Rainey's prayer is wrong. Pastor Rainey's invocation will take place on Monday as planned, and now, he will not be asked to forsake his beliefs to do so."

An excerpt from the temporary restraining order reads, "The government's compulsion of a program's inclusion or exclusion of a particular religion offends the Constitution. The Constitution does not confide to the government the authority to compel emptiness in a prayer, where a prayer belongs."

"While I am very disappointed we had to take legal action, I am glad that the judge agreed that removing Jesus' name from my prayer is unconstitutional," said Pastor Rainey of Houston's Living Word Church of the Nazarene. "I am honored to be allowed to pray in the name of Jesus at this somber remembrance of our nation's fallen."

View Pastor Rainey's prayer and read the judge's order.

Liberty Institute was formed to uphold Constitutional and First Amendment religious and speech freedoms in the courts and legislature. Liberty Institute successfully represented more than four million veterans through the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Mojave Desert War Memorial case, Salazar v. Buono, decided last year in favor of allowing the Memorial to stand.

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