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      VA required to cover up Christian symbols in chapel

      "I was appalled, I was disgusted, I was outraged,?? said protester, Jackie Clawson.

      Clawson was outside the VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain on the rainy Monday afternoon protesting the newest addition to the VA chapel: curtains with a mission on religious neutrality.

      ??The most recent policy dating back to July 2008 pretty much states that our chapels are to be available for all faiths for prayer or meditation,?? said Brad Nelson, Public Affairs Officer for the VA Medical Center.

      The curtains came, not because of complaints of the Christian symbols, but after a site visit last August from the National Chaplain Center in which the VA was made aware of the policy with which they needed to comply. That??s when they started using curtains to cover the Christian symbols, but only when not in use by those of the Christian faith, in order to facilitate the practices of all faiths. This means the curtains are required to remain closed when not being used for Catholic mass, Protestant services, or other group and individual Christian meetings.

      ??What it means is that the chapel has to be available for prayer and meditation; the federal government does recognize a wide variety of different faith groups and has been for a number of years,?? Nelson said.

      That being the case, Jackie Clawson still doesn't like the fact that after Christian services the curtains must be closed.

      ??We shouldn't have to keep it closed. If you go in there and you choose to close it, that's your choice, but we don't have a choice; they're not giving the veterans any choice,?? Clawson said.

      The VA indicated they??re looking for other options besides the temporary curtains as a way to comply with the policy.

      ??Our medical center chaplains are going to be checking with the other medical centers to see how they maintain the spirit of the policy without stifling our heritage,?? Nelson said.

      ??How far are they going to take this? How far are they going to go? Our veterans fought for our country, for God, and for freedom and liberty,?? Clawson said. ??We??re taking God out of the Veterans Affairs and it's just not right.??