Saturday, August 9, 2008

VA Can't Be Stopped from Using Religion, Says 7th Circuit

In Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Nicholson, the 7th Circuit ruled (August 5, 2008) that taxpayers lack standing to sue the Department of Veterans Affairs for incorporating religion into its health care programs.

On April 19, 2006 the Foundation sued in District Court under 42 USC 1983 to end certain VA practices that it claimed violated the separation of church and state:
  • The clinical focus of the Chaplain Service
  • The spiritual assessments that the VA gives to patients
  • The provision of pastoral care to VA outpatients
  • The integration of spirituality/religion into VA treatment programs.

The VA argued that spirituality should be integrated into care, but it is up to patients to decide whether that involves religion. Its "spiritual assessments" ask patients about their faith (such as how often they attend church, or how important the Bible or other scripture is in their lives) to help it figure out what each patient needs.

U.S. District Judge John Shabaz granted summary judgment to the VA, ruling Lemon v. Kurtzman was controlling and that the VA program satisfied the "Lemon" test.

On appeal, the VA lawyers challenged the Foundation's standing to sue, citing the recently decided Hein case, and the three-judge panel agreed.

Thanks for the heads-up from VA Watchdog!

No comments: