Friday, July 22, 2011

Texas Congressman Goes Undercover at Veteran's Funeral at Houston National Cemetery

The result?

Confirmation that the Director of the Houston National Cemetery is censoring freedom of speech and freedom of religion at the funerals of our veterans.

As you may remember, my previous article entitled God Bless Our Military ... Just Not At The Houston National Cemetery, shared how the Houston National Cemetery Director, Ms. Arlene Ocasio, was requiring grieving families and volunteer groups to not use the words "God" or "Jesus" at any funeral ceremony without her prior approval.  This has been a hot topic here in the Houston area, but Ms. Ocasio remains in her position as are her expressed requirements carried out by her employees to ensure prayers are more inclusive of other religions.

Earlier this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs defended Ms. Arlene Ocasio stating the accusations in the current lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs and Ms. Arleen Ocasio were categorically false.  Congressman John Culberson, U.S. Representative of Texas District 7, took it upon himself to go undercover at a recent military hero's funeral and found the truth.  He personally witnessed censorship of freedom of speech and freedom of religion at the funerals of our veterans.

Listen here as KTRH's Matt Patrick talks to Congressman Culberson on this morning's radio show.  There is purposeful, deliberate and repeated interference occurring against the grieving families, the VFW Honor Guard and other volunteer organizations there in support of our military hero funerals.

As also reported by Nik Rajkovic at KTRH, Congressman Culberson is so upset with the Director's actions that he's threatening to "zero out" her salary unless she quits or moves elsewhere.  Congressman Culberson is Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee for the Veterans Administration.

Yes, I understand and agree there should be and are SOP's for funerals at National Cemetery's as with any governmental entity or even private business; however, in this particular case, the actions of this Director are unacceptable as her requirement has crossed the line on many separate occasions, as now evidenced personally by a United States Congressman. 

We must remember that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 
If the Houston National Cemetery and its Director are truly there to help and respect the military families, they will not continue to interfere with the Constitutional and dare I say, God given, rights to grieve and pray.  Period. Unfortunately, this freedom is not allowed at the Houston National Cemetery, but I have faith and hope this will soon change. 

Join me in thanking Congressman John Culberson for going out of his way to find out personally what is happening at the Houston National Cemetery.  If only more elected officials were like him.  I agree with him that Houston wants a new Director.  Immediately.  

Please also continue to help our military and their families by supporting one or more of the following wonderful organizations:

May God continue to bless our military and our great nation.  If you choose not to pray, that's your choice.  
I respect all faiths and beliefs so I won't force mine on you and you don't force yours on me.  Grieving families, the VFW Honor Guard and any volunteers there to assist the families with their needs should pray as they wish, when they wish, if they wish, without permission from a government entity.  

That's the beauty of America.  FREEDOM. Stand with me in support of it.

All Hands On Deck to: Cut! Cap! BALANCE! **UPDATED**

The Senate is scheduled to vote this morning on the Cut-Cap-Balance legislation that passed the House earlier this week with bipartisan support.

The following Senators have previously indicated they support C-C-B, but they need to be reminded that the nation is watching!

Call them right now -- you don't need to be from their state, you just need to be an American who cares. Be firm, but be polite!

You know what to do:

Mark Begich (D-AK) -- (202) 224-3004
Michael Bennet (D-CO) -- (202) 224-5852
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) -- (202) 224-2315
Tom Carper (D-DE) -- (202) 224-2441
Joe Manchin (D-WV) -- (202) 224-3954
Claire McCaskill (D-MO) -- (202) 224-6154
Bill Nelson (D-FL) -- (202) 224-5274
Ben Nelson (D-NE) -- (202) 224-6551
Mark Udall (D-CO) -- (202) 224-5941

Thanks for your help!

Don't leave it to someone else! YOU ARE someone else!

God Bless America!

** UPDATE ** And there you have it.  The Senate Democrats - who have held the majority since the last two (2) years of the Bush Administration - voted to kill a bill that would prevent default.  Thus, they are instead holding our economy hostage.  Fact.  Make yourselves heard.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Country 'Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of ... Removal of the Pledge of Allegiance?!

Hard to believe, right?  Well, it's true ... and it happened in Bowie County, Texas.

Just when I thought nothing could be as outrageous as my recent post "God Bless Our Military ... just not at the Houston National Cemetery" where veterans are being censored for religious speech, I hear about what is happening in our furthest county of northeast Texas.

Seems the Bowie County Commissioners Court voted on June 13, 2011, to remove our country's Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation from their county meeting minutes.

As reported on the Red Flame Wire:
... on June 13, 2011, the Commissioner Court, with the exception of Commissioner John Addington, decided that they no longer wanted the records to reflect that the Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation were said for fear it would give the perception that it is the courts official stance.
During the meeting, the minutes of the court were brought up before the court.  Precinct 4 Commissioner Pat McCoy, made a suggestion that the court not approve the minutes.  McCoy claims that, although the Pledge and Invocation did take place, since the judge did not use words “call the meeting to order,” the records cannot reflect the Pledge of Allegiance or the Prayer.  
There is no law in Texas that backs McCoy’s claim.
In Texas, meetings are governed by Title 5, Chapter 551 of the Government Code, otherwise known as the Texas Open Meetings Act.  In short, a meeting which is to be recorded (written or electronic) is defined when a quorum (majority) of a government body is present, who partakes in deliberation (defined by the act as a “verbal exchange”) and consist of an item under jurisdiction (public business or public policy) of the governmental body.
Many of the counties in Texas have the Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance on their Agenda’s and Minutes because it does fall under their jurisdiction.
Bowie County Judge Sterling Lacy, states that he purposely does not place items such as the pledge and/or invocation on the Agenda and purposely performs them prior to calling the meeting to order, for fear of being “sued by an organization such as ACLU” and does not want to give the impression that it is the courts “official stance.” 
Sounds like the Bowie County Commissioners Court "official stance" is political correctness gone wild.

Thankfully, the voters of Bowie County elected The Honorable Natalie Nichols as their County Clerk.

You see, my fellow Americans, Mrs. Nichols was away in Dallas on business when the court decided they should cease including the Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation to the meeting minutes.  And as County Clerk, it is her duty by Texas Law to serve as "clerk of the county court and the commissioners court and keep records of the proceedings."

Upon her return to the next regular session meeting on June 23, 2011, Nichols refused to exclude the Pledge and Prayer from the meeting minutes, and rightfully so.  Here is the video where she says "many brave men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their blood and their lives to protect this great nation, that includes our most sacred flag.  I will not dishonor their service or sacrifice. We shouldn't be fighting to hide our allegiance to the flag; we should be fighting to proclaim it!  America is the greatest country in the world, our flag and its colors represent America's valor, purity, perseverance and justice among others, and the Pledge of Allegiance honors it."

Commissioner McCoy told the Texarkana Gazette that "Nichols seemed to be distorting facts and making too much of the issue and exaggerating the circumstances surrounding a measure - a measure which was purely clerical in nature and not that significant."  Judge Lacy was absent from the meeting on June 23, 2011, but he did react to Nichols' comments by stating she did not "understand the long term impact of her stand.  What she hasn't thought through is the unintended consequences."  

More per Red Flame Wire:
During a Bowie County Commissioners Court Meeting on July 11, 2011, Lacy addressed the members of the court about the removal of the Pledge and Prayer from court documents, claiming that the minutes that left out “the opening ceremony of devotional, Prayer and pledge,” (the devotional was never an issue until the commissioners court got called to the carpet) prompting Nichols to say “that’s not true … the Pledge and Prayer are most certainly there,” which caused Lacy to try to silence her, resulting in her exasperated comment, “but you’re lying.”
Nichols immediately made a public apology for the interruption, but not for her stance.
Despite Nichols' apology for her court "outburst," Judge Lacy requested Bowie County Sheriff James Prince “investigate whether actions by Clerk Natalie Nichols at Monday’s meeting constitute disrupting a public meeting,” per the Texarkana Gazette.  Why the harsh move?  To send a message?  The case investigator contacted Nichols just yesterday for her statement.  

Disrupting a public meeting in Texas is punishable with up to six (6) months in jail and a $2,000 fine!  Rumor is the Grand Jury will meet on 7/28.  If Nichols is found guilty, she will also be automatically and immediately removed from office. Has there been a plan all along to remove Nichols?  Maybe this is what Judge Lacy meant by "unintended circumstances?"

Pamela Gellar of World Net Daily wrote in her piece titled "An Unholy War in Texas" that Nichols "has made it her official stance and is now actually being threatened with legal action by a representative of the district attorney's office. But Nichols is standing firm: She has stated that she would rather be removed from office than acquiesce to this."  

After viewing several hours of Bowie County Commissioners Court meetings and reading about the facts surrounding this story, I wonder:  Why the sudden brouhaha to remove the Pledge and Prayer from the meeting minutes?  Alas, we may never know because
the bright, hot spotlight and pressure by the public has changed the tune of the Bowie County Commissioners Court.  They agreed to include the Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation back into the meeting minutes. Just like they have in previous regular session meetings prior to June 23, 2011, as evidenced by the Bowie County meeting minutes posted and filed online.

So all should be well in the world now, right?  Wrong.  The case against Natalie Nichols is still pending a Grand Jury investigation.  Nichols' 
oath of office affirmed she would "faithfully execute the duties of the office of Bowie County Clerk of the State of Texas, and will to the best of her ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help her, God."

Let yourself be heard in helping Nichols fight this injustice against her.  Had this situation happened in a corporate environment, Nichols would have been given a reprimand, if that, and certainly would not be subject to fines, removal from her job and jail for stating facts and doing the job she was elected to do!  The good ole boys of the Bowie County Commissioners Court are being petty, vindictive and are not dishonorable in regards to this case.  Facts are stubborn things, my friends and they speak volumes here.

Nichols should not be sent to the Grand Jury for doing her job and standing by her oath.  If you are able to take time out of your busy day to make a call or send an email in support of Nichols and against the tyranny of those who filed the legal action against her, please remember to use your inside voice and be polite, but firm.

Contact your Congressman
Contact Governor Perry

Contact Judge Sterling Lacy

Contact Bowie County Commissioners

Contact Sheriff James Prince
Contact Bowie County District Attorney
I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!

Game on.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Houston National Cemetery's Declaration of Independence

Today I had the honor of attending the Religious Freedom Rally at the Houston National Cemetery with my husband Steve.  At this event, a coalition of Houston area pastors, representing a variety of ethnic and religious denominations, stood alongside several Texas politicians and local officials to support our veterans, their families, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Tears began swelling in my eyes early as we drove off the Sam Houston toll road onto the feeder road to a complete stop well before the signal light to turn onto Veteran's Memorial Boulevard.  I felt great pride in knowing so many of my fellow Texans felt as we did and were able to attend this event.  We arrived with plenty of time, but with the turn out of what I'd say was close to 1,000 people, we ended up having to park at the far end of the cemetery and were a teeny bit late to hearing the first couple speakers.  But no hundred-degree heat was going to stop us. We all heard the call and we came.  As we walked up to the event, I heard "pardon the noise, but this is the sound of freedom."  Cheers roared throughout the crowd. How sweet it is.

Make a note Texans:  All politicians representing the Houston area were invited to this event.  Some attended, many did not.  I'd like to thank those who I heard speak:  Dave Welch, Executive Director, US Pastor Council, Paul Bettencourt, Pastor Willie Davis, Congressman Pete Olson, State Representative Debbie Riddle, Pastor Scot Wall, Gold Star Mom Debora Wallace, my State Representative Allen Fletcher, Jay Guerrero speaking on behalf of Senator John Cornyn, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, Pastor Steve Riggle and Congressman Ted Poe.  I will remember these names.

To recap, the Houston National Cemetery Director, Arleen Ocasio, requires grieving families to not use the words "God" or "Jesus" at any personal funeral ceremony without her written approval.  I wrote about this censorship and travesty in a post last week.   Ms. Ocasio has stated that she was only trying to make prayers more inclusive of other religions.  Hmm.  If she truly is trying to make prayers more inclusive of other religions, why has she:

  1. ... instructed Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4 to remove prayers from its burial rituals and to no longer utter remarks when handing the discharged shell cases from the rifle salute to the family of deceased veterans?
  2. ... instructed American Legion Post 586 to remove prayers from its burial rituals?
  3. ... told the National Memorial Ladies that they could no longer include "God Bless" in their condolence cards or speak religious messages to veterans' families?
  4. ... shut down the Cemetery chapel and use it now for only a storage and meeting facility?
Ms. Ocasio is not being inclusive of other religions, she is against freedom of religion and against freedom of speech.  Her tyranny in treating our veterans and their families as "customers" must no longer be tolerated.  Read more about the current lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs and Ms. Arleen Ocasio here.

All who spoke were emotional as were those watching and listening.  I know I was not alone in my tears.  We must all speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  That means you too.  We must stand together and do all we can to help ensure our freedoms remain as they have for the past 235 years.  Write your Congressman.  Call them.  Same goes for our local officials.  Let your voice be heard.  The days of "it's none of my business" must end or our country will no longer be the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

In all the emotion, I saw some great t-shirts and handmade signs that made me smile:
  • "Enjoy Freedom of Speech?  Thank a Vet!" 
  • God Bless Our Troops and their Families
  • 1st Amendment:  Freedom OF religion, not freedom from religion!
  • One Nation Under God.
  • In Jesus Name We Pray.
  • My Marine Has Your Back.

We praised John Cornyn's words that our Founding Fathers rightly placed language in our Constitution that "precludes the federal government from establishing an official religion, but this same language also prohibits the government from limiting an individual their rights to the free exercise of religion according to his or her conscience."  Exactly.

We sang "God Bless America" together.  This song always gives me goosebumps, tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

Our veterans and their families give the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedoms we do today. They deserve better treatment than what they've received the past many months here at the Houston National Cemetery.  The censorship of speech and religious freedom must end now.  If this can happen in Texas, it can happen anywhere across our great nation.

Houston wants a new Director.  Immediately.  We demand it.  Political correctness is out of hand in our country.  Today is Independence Day and here in Houston, Texas, just as what began 235 years ago, we stand with our veterans, their families and friends in declaring our freedom from tyranny again. Join us by contacting your Congressman, the Veteran's Administration in Washington, DC (#202-373-5400) and demand a new Director for the Houston National Cemetery.

You can also help our military and their families here:

Patriots: If you are with us on this, please sign Liberty Institute's Petition to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs demanding they end these abuses immediately.

God Bless Texas!  God Bless our military.  And God Bless America!