Families of deceased veterans were shocked and angry last year when religious references were banned from funeral rituals and a Memorial Day service at Houston National Cemetery.

A lawsuit eventually resolved the matter, but a House bill would enshrine in law the lessons learned from that isolated incident.

Such protections already exist as a result of the lawsuit and Bush-era policies that protect families’ free exercise of religion at military funerals. However, the bill filed by Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, would spell out families’ rights to religious expression while curtailing the government’s role.

Veteran funeral services are held at no cost to families and are offered in any of 131 national cemeteries maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veteran service organizations often attend at the request of families to perform memorial rites.

Under current law, honor guards are prohibited from participating in religious rituals except as requested by families. Problems arose in Houston when the cemetery director misinterpreted this law to prohibit all religious speech.

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