Official: Hospital didn’t ban religious messages

Concerns that the Van Zandt VA Medical Center was preventing volunteers from sharing religious holiday messages has been “blown out of proportion,” according to the hospital.

Andrea Young, the hospital’s public affairs officer, said that Christmas greetings and cards are allowed.

“There was a miscommunication about any kind of religious messages,” she said. “Essentially, our chaplain is the person who would hand out any clearly specifically Christian messages.”

The chaplain would be the liason for Christian pamphlets or literature, she said, but not more generic holiday cards. Colleen Neville of Huntingdon sent a letter to the Mirror on Dec. 17, saying that she had been told the hospital had prohibited “religious greetings” and use of the words “Merry Christmas” by volunteers visiting the hospital.

Neville, who had been told of a VFW Post 1754 hospital visit earlier in the month from one of the volunteers, wrote that gifts or cards saying “Merry Christmas” or similar messages would not be distributed. Post 1754 is based in Huntingdon.

“I felt hurt for those Christian patients who were being denied the opportunity to engage in anything to do with their faith and the birth of Our Savior,” Neville wrote in the letter.

Young said the hospital receives Christmas cards and greetings from local children, churches and volunteer groups regularly, and they would not turn down similar gifts for the veterans.