SJR 24: Relating to certain holiday practices at federal Veterans Health Administration facilities.
00 SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 24 01 Relating to certain holiday practices at federal Veterans Health Administration 02 facilities. 03 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA: 04 WHEREAS, in December 2013, federal Veterans Health Administration facilities in 05 Texas, Georgia, Iowa, and Alabama violated the religious freedom rights of convalescing 06 veterans in their care; and 07 WHEREAS a Veterans Health Administration hospital in Dallas, Texas, did not 08 distribute to the veterans in its care holiday cards that used certain language, including "Merry 09 Christmas" and "God bless you"; and 10 WHEREAS a Veterans Health Administration hospital in Augusta, Georgia, denied 11 Christmas carolers from the local high school the opportunity to sing in public areas of the 12 hospital; and 13 WHEREAS two other Veterans Health Administration facilities in Iowa and Alabama 14 prohibited the distribution of Christmas gifts and Christmas gift bags; and 15 WHEREAS a Veterans Health Administration official cited the policy of the Veterans
01 Health Administration for the nondistribution of the holiday cards; and 02 WHEREAS the Veterans Health Administration official stated that, in order to 03 respect veterans' religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a 04 multidisciplinary team of staff led by the chaplaincy services to determine whether the cards 05 are appropriate and can be freely distributed to patients; and 06 WHEREAS the Veterans Health Administration official stated that the process for 07 reviewing holiday cards was not fully explained to the particular group involved and 08 apologized for any misunderstanding; and 09 WHEREAS those holiday cards, gifts, and presentations came from caring citizens, 10 including young children, who took the time to recognize the heroic actions of men and 11 women who have sacrificed so much in the service of their country in times of both peace and 12 war; and 13 WHEREAS, although Christmas Day has origins in religious beliefs, it is recognized 14 as a civic holiday for federal employees; and 15 WHEREAS the Veterans Health Administration violates the right to religious 16 freedom of the veterans in its care by not allowing them to receive certain holiday cards and 17 gifts and to attend certain presentations; 18 BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature respectfully requests that the 19 United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs reconsider the policies on holiday practices at 20 Veterans Health Administration facilities and rewrite those policies so that the violations of 21 veterans' rights described in this resolution do not occur again; and be it 22 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature respectfully requests that 23 the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs provide the Alaska State Legislature with 24 copies of the rewritten policies on holiday practices at Veterans Health Administration 25 facilities. 26 COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable Barack Obama, President of 27 the United States; the Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice-President of the United States and 28 President of the U.S. Senate; the Honorable John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of 29 Representatives; the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the U.S. House of 30 Representatives; the Honorable Harry Reid, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate; the 31 Honorable Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate; the Honorable Eric K.
01 Shinseki, United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Verdie Bowen, Director, Office of 02 Veterans Affairs, Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs; and the Honorable Lisa 03 Murkowski and the Honorable Mark Begich, U.S. Senators, and the Honorable Don Young, 04 U.S. Representative, members of the Alaska delegation in Congress; and all other members of 05 the 113th United States Congress.