No Merry Christmas cards allowed at VA

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No Merry Christmas cards allowed at VA

Do you think it is ok for the VA to ban cards that mention Christmas?

Boys and girls at Grace Academy in Prosper, Tex., spent most of last Friday making homemade Christmas cards for bedridden veterans at the VA hospital in Dallas.

Fourth-grader Gracie Brown was especially proud of her card, hoping it would ?make their day because their family might live far away, and they might not have somebody to celebrate Christmas with.?

?I?d like them to know they?ve not been forgotten and somebody wanted to say thank you,? Gracie told MyFoxDFW.com.

Gracie?s card read, ?Merry Christmas. Thank you for your service.? It also included an American flag.

But the bedridden veterans at the VA hospital will never get to see Gracie?s card. Nor will they see the cards made by 51 other students. That?s because the Christmas cards violated VA policy.

"It really didn't occur to me there would be a problem with distributing Christmas cards," said Susan Chapman, a math teacher at the academy. She's married to a veteran and volunteers with the American Legion and other veterans' organizations.

On Monday morning the boys and girls were planning on hand delivering the cards to the wounded veterans. Chapman called the hospital to make final arrangements and that?s when she learned there was a problem.

"I told him my students made cards, we'd like to bring them down for the veterans," Chapman told the television station. "And he said, 'That's great. We're thrilled to have them, except the only thing is, we can't accept anything that says ?Merry Christmas' or ?God bless you' or any scriptural references because of all the red tape.'"

A VA official quoted the policy which is in the Veterans Health Administration handbook:

"In order to be respectful of our veterans' religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff led by chaplaincy services and determined if they are appropriate (non-religious) to freely distribute to patients. We regret this process was not fully explained to this group and apologize for any misunderstanding."

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute, said it was a new low ?even for the Scrooges and Grinches at the VA.?

?Targeting the benevolent work of little children for censorship is disgusting,? Sasser told me. ?Do the Grinches in the administration of the VA really believe our bravest warriors need protection from the heartfelt well wishes of small children saying Merry Christmas??

Andrea Brown, Gracie?s mom, was dumbfounded by the news.

?This wasn?t the country I grew up in, when you couldn?t say ?Merry Christmas,? you couldn?t say ?God bless you? or reference any scripture,? she told MyFoxDFW.com.

She told the television station the boys and girls were heartbroken that the military personnel would not be able to receive their cards.

"They couldn't believe the people that these people they wanted to honor weren't going to get the chance to see what they had done," she said.

The cards will not be thrown away -- they are being shipped to Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio and to a private facility for veterans in Louisiana.

Sasser said at some point, ?does the VA have no shame??

?Mr. Potter from ?It?s a Wonderful Life? wouldn?t even ban little children from wishing our veterans Merry Christmas,? Sasser said.

VA hospital refuses to accept 'Merry Christmas' cards | Fox News

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I read an article from a different source that properly explained the policy. Cards with Christmas or religious content are distributed on an individual basis if that person has said it's okay, and after that, they distribute non-religious ones freely. The ones that are still religious but can't get distributed there go to another hospital that doesn't have the same policy.

So it's not really that the cards go to waste or that no one can get them.

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“In order to be respectful of our Veterans religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff led by Chaplaincy services and determined if they are appropriate (non-religious) to freely distribute to patients. After the review is complete, the holiday cards that reference religious and/or secular tones are then distributed by Chaplaincy Service on a one-on-one basis if the patient agrees to the religious reference in the holiday card donation. The holiday cards that do not contain religious and/or secular tones are distributed freely to patients across the Health Care System. We regret this process was not fully explained to this group and apologize for any misunderstanding.”

I don't see the problem in the policy. Sounds very respectful to all involved.

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I agree, having it explained better, the policy sounds fine. I also think it's very telling that the original article deleted the part about how the religious cards are then distributed to patients that agree to receive religious cards, to make it sound much worse than it is.

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"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I read an article from a different source that properly explained the policy. Cards with Christmas or religious content are distributed on an individual basis if that person has said it's okay, and after that, they distribute non-religious ones freely. The ones that are still religious but can't get distributed there go to another hospital that doesn't have the same policy.

So it's not really that the cards go to waste or that no one can get them.

If that is the case why did they just refuse them? Are you saying that not one person in the VA hospital in Dallas would give permission to accept a card? I find that a little hard to believe. It didn't say they were going to pass them out individually, it said they were going to ship them ALL to Brooks and a non VA hopsital.

Here is a copy of the letter that Liberty Institute sent to the VA.
http://www.libertyinstitute.org/document.doc?id=123

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

If that is the case why did they just refuse them? Are you saying that not one person in the VA hospital in Dallas would give permission to accept a card? I find that a little hard to believe. It didn't say they were going to pass them out individually, it said they were going to ship them ALL to Brooks and a non VA hopsital.

Here is a copy of the letter that Liberty Institute sent to the VA.
http://www.libertyinstitute.org/document.doc?id=123

I'm guessing they didn't go through the vetting procedure. But it seriously doesn't matter enough to me to dig up more articles on it. There are so many real injustices in this world...this one isn't really a big deal and it just seems like part of the mythical "war on Christmas" babble.

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"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I'm guessing they didn't go through the vetting procedure. But it seriously doesn't matter enough to me to dig up more articles on it. There are so many real injustices in this world...this one isn't really a big deal and it just seems like part of the mythical "war on Christmas" babble.

Of course because it's just more of the same. Who cares if Christians get their rights trampled on, no big deal. Of course if it were Muslims or some other group being discriminated against everyone would be all over it. Who cares about some bed-ridden old people in a VA hospital that could have had a personal visit from some children with a card but instead got to spend the day alone. It sure is a good thing that they were protected from someone saying Merry Christmas to them, especially when it is a good guess that at least 80% of them are Christians.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Of course because it's just more of the same. Who cares if Christians get their rights trampled on, no big deal. Of course if it were Muslims or some other group being discriminated against everyone would be all over it. Who cares about some bed-ridden old people in a VA hospital that could have had a personal visit from some children with a card but instead got to spend the day alone. It sure is a good thing that they were protected from someone saying Merry Christmas to them, especially when it is a good guess that at least 80% of them are Christians.

All they had to do was change the cards to say Happy Holidays if that's what was at the heart of what they wanted. It's hardly having their rights trampled on, nobody was discriminated against. A teacher made a mistake and didn't know about a policy, it could have been easily fixed by having them quickly re-do the cards, or just show up with crafts they made, or whatever. The kids still could have come without the cards, too. It's probably just misplaced outrage that got in the way.

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"freddieflounder101" wrote:

All they had to do was change the cards to say Happy Holidays if that's what was at the heart of what they wanted. It's hardly having their rights trampled on, nobody was discriminated against. A teacher made a mistake and didn't know about a policy, it could have been easily fixed by having them quickly re-do the cards, or just show up with crafts they made, or whatever. The kids still could have come without the cards, too. It's probably just misplaced outrage that got in the way.

Of course the teacher didn't know about the policy, because who would think that our free speech to wish a veteran Merry Christmas would be censored? Are you saying that Happy Holiday cards are free speech but Merry Christmas isn't? What gives our government the right to determine what a person in a VA hospital is allowed to read?

The messages on the cards clearly are the private speech of Mrs. Chapman and her
students. See Johanns v. Livestock Mktg. ***'n, 544 U.S. 550 (2005); Pounds v. Katy Indep. Sch.
Dist., 730 F. Supp. 2d 636 (S.D. Tex. 2010).. Such viewpoint discrimination is unlawful even in
non-public forums for speech. See Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Def. & Educ. Fund, 473 U.S. 788
(1985).. By refusing to accept the cards offered by Mrs. Chapman and her students the
Department and the Medical Center committed unlawful viewpoint discrimination in violation of
the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, the holiday card policies of the
Department of Veterans Affairs and the Medical Center constitute unlawful religious viewpoint
discrimination in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The actions and 2
policies of the Department and the Medical Center were and are also violations of the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act.

These events are particularly troubling considering the September 22, 2011 consent
decree signed by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes in Rainey v. U.S. Dept. of Veterans
Affairs, No. 4:11-cv-01992 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 19, 2011). That consent decree ordered the
Department “not to ban religious speech or words, such as ‘God’ and ‘Jesus,’ in condolence
cards or similar documents given by non-VAVS volunteer.” It also ordered the Department
“not to ban, regulate, or otherwise interfere with the giving of gifts, including gifts that contain a
religious message or viewpoint.” The consent decree remains in full force and effect until the
year 2026.

http://www.libertyinstitute.org/document.doc?id=123

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Of course because it's just more of the same. Who cares if Christians get their rights trampled on, no big deal. Of course if it were Muslims or some other group being discriminated against everyone would be all over it. Who cares about some bed-ridden old people in a VA hospital that could have had a personal visit from some children with a card but instead got to spend the day alone. It sure is a good thing that they were protected from someone saying Merry Christmas to them, especially when it is a good guess that at least 80% of them are Christians.

So where is your outrage that a vet who isn't Christian was denied his/her non-secular card? Or since these are students at a private Christian school, the outrage that they might not have made a card for a Jewish vet or Muslim vet? "If you're Christian we have cards for you! If not, too bad because we only need to consider the 80% who are!"

The cards went to another hospital, right? To me outrage seems...well.... sad. The cards weren't thrown away - other vets received them.

When you are a part of the dominant culture, it's hard to see the other side.

30+ Examples of Christian Privilege

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Of course the teacher didn't know about the policy, because who would think that our free speech to wish a veteran Merry Christmas would be censored? Are you saying that Happy Holiday cards are free speech but Merry Christmas isn't? What gives our government the right to determine what a person in a VA hospital is allowed to read?

http://www.libertyinstitute.org/document.doc?id=123

I would think that since the military fits with the establishment clause, a VA hospital would have to be careful. A mass quantity of cards endorsing 1 religion over others could be considered a violation of this.

Why doesn't a vet in the VA hospital have the right to NOT get a card? Why put those who don't want it in the awkward position if either rejecting the card or taking it?

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How are the "Christian's rights getting trampled on?" You have a *right* to give people a card whether they want it or not?

I don't know what happened in this particular instance at this particular hospital. Maybe it was too close to Christmas to have time to vet the cards and get them out before Christmas? Or maybe this particular hospital made a mistake and did not follow their own policy, in which case they made a mistake. All I'm saying is, the policy itself sounds reasonable and respectful to all involved. You have a right to make and donate the cards. The vets have a right to state that they don't want religious cards and not receive them if that is their choice. When followed properly, it sounds like everyone's rights are being respected.

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

I would think that since the military fits with the establishment clause, a VA hospital would have to be careful. A mass quantity of cards endorsing 1 religion over others could be considered a violation of this.

Why doesn't a vet in the VA hospital have the right to NOT get a card? Why put those who don't want it in the awkward position if either rejecting the card or taking it?

Sorry I just don't buy that they were even given the option to say yes or no. If they did it was probably in some fine print that they didn't even understand. I guarantee you that at least SOME of those veterans would have wanted to receive those cards if given the option, probably WAY more than some. And if they didn't want a card all they would have had to do was refuse the visit or close their door, I'm sure they would have asked before entering a room. But of course there is a constitutional right not to be offended isn't there?

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

But of course there is a constitutional right not to be offended isn't there?

I think it's mentioned in the same amendment that guarantees people the ability to force their religious materials on people who don't want them. Wink

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Sorry I just don't buy that they were even given the option to say yes or no. If they did it was probably in some fine print that they didn't even understand. I guarantee you that at least SOME of those veterans would have wanted to receive those cards if given the option, probably WAY more than some. And if they didn't want a card all they would have had to do was refuse the visit or close their door, I'm sure they would have asked before entering a room. But of course there is a constitutional right not to be offended isn't there?

Then you acknowledge SOME would not.

Is there a right to not be offended? Really? On Christmas, THAT'S the message you want to send? I'm going to offend you because that's MY right?

Why would anyone want to offend someone? I mean, if I send a card listing my relgious beliefs that war is against Jesus's teaching, and killing is wrong, and when you chose to sin, you chose the negative consequences, would that be appropriate?

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I think it's mentioned in the same amendment that guarantees people the ability to force their religious materials on people who don't want them. Wink

Ya I'm pretty sure those kids were going to stuff those cards down their throats walking down the hall from where there was probably a Christmas tree in the lobby.

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Is there a right to not be offended? Really? On Christmas, THAT'S the message you want to send? I'm going to offend you because that's MY right?

Haha, that reminds me, last year some of my family members posted "Merry CHRISTmas!" on my FB wall - not because I they were wishing me well, or even because I had posted anything "anti-Merry Christmas" - just because they know that I'm not religious and they apparently decided to use their most sacred holiday as an excuse to try to rub my nose in something they don't like about me (my lack of religion.)

I swear that is the sentiment that I see coming out of some some quarters every single year! I call it The Merry [EMAIL=$&*@%]$&*@%[/EMAIL] Christmas Syndrome. LOL

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Ya I'm pretty sure those kids were going to stuff those cards down their throats walking down the hall from where there was probably a Christmas tree in the lobby.

You're the one talking about constitutional rights. (I'm assuming that's what you meant when you said that Christian's rights were being trampled on - you meant Constitutional rights, yes?) You're right that there is no constitutional right not to be offended (ironic you would bring that up when you're offended....) There is also not a constitutional right to give a stranger a card that they may not want.

FTR, not knowing the full circumstances behind why they didn't, I think that the hospital should have followed their own policy and vetted the cards and then distributed them. I agree that they probably would have really brightened some of those vets' day. Short of that, I'm glad that they distributed them elsewhere, so they could brighten someone else's day. I just don't agree that anyone has the constitutional right to distribute religious materials in places where they may not be wanted. I also agree that the kids could have probably still gone and visited the vets without the cards, or that they could have quickly remade cards that said something non-religious, so there were other options that would have benefitted the vets.

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Or crazy idea, the teacher could have made a call first before setting the task to find out what would be acceptable. I work with young people and we aalways call first if we are doing something like this to ensure we follow any guidelines the agency/ organisation have.

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Again, if the overriding concern was to get visits and cards to these vets, why didn't they just change the cards? And just visit them? Sounds like a win-win.

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I am not understanding why this is an issue. Any time I have checked into a hospital, even for an outpatient procedure there has been a form to fill out with questions like "Would you like your name to be given to clergy?" and "Do you have a religious preference?" Even in schools when wanting to find out about pictures being taken of students or any number of other issues there is just a form asking for preferences. Why can't there be a form (one amongst the hundreds that there are) asking would you like Christmas cards or other literature yes or no?

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The reason they ask about clergy at hospitals is not just for fun. Catholics, for example, will put down they are Catholic because if anything goes wrong they need last rites when possible.

If I was in a hospital long term I wouldn't want to decide on Christmas cards upon entering. My mood might be very different come Christmas.

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I thought there was a form and that is what they are supposed to check against?

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VA Response Letter
http://www.libertyinstitute.org/document.doc?id=125

I guess it was illegal for them to censor the cards after all.

In light of the VA’s response, Liberty Institute issues the following statement:
“In the response, the VA admits that they are banning kids from freely giving veterans Christmas Cards that say Christmas. The VA further admits that it is unlawfully screening cards for religious content, and, according to the policy the VA references in its response, will only give a veteran a card that says Christmas if the veteran actually requests such a card on their own.

The VA’s policy of banning Christmas cards unless a veteran specifically asks for a Christmas card is not only unlawful it is patently silly. We are continuing our investigation of this incident as well as numerous others we are learning about where VA facilities across the country are engaging in hostility to religion in violation of the First Amendment and federal law."

Liberty Institute News: VA Admits Censorship of School Children's Christmas Cards and Confirms Nationwide Policy that Unlawfully Discriminates Against Religion

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I'm sorry, why would it be unlawful for the VA to accept the cards but then only distribute them to individual veterans who agree to accept religious cards?

Their letter doesn't say that they admit that it is unlawful for them to only distribute religious cards to people who want religious cards, it says that their policy was miscommunicated. Their policy is to take the religious cards and then distribute them to people that want the religious cards, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. It sounds like someone at the VA either didn't understand or didn't properly communicate the policy, which is too bad but sounds like it was just a mistake. However, their policy itself sounds like a good policy, assuming they actually follow it.

Is it seriously the Liberty Institute's position that people who don't want the religious cards MUST be given the religious cards?

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I'm sorry, why would it be unlawful for the VA to accept the cards but then only distribute them to individual veterans who agree to accept religious cards?

Their letter doesn't say that they admit that it is unlawful for them to only distribute religious cards to people who want religious cards, it says that their policy was miscommunicated. Their policy is to take the religious cards and then distribute them to people that want the religious cards, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. It sounds like someone at the VA either didn't understand or didn't properly communicate the policy, which is too bad but sounds like it was just a mistake. However, their policy itself sounds like a good policy, assuming they actually follow it.

Is it seriously the Liberty Institute's position that people who don't want the religious cards MUST be given the religious cards?

Still so confused by the religious stuff...
Does this mean if JW, Mormons, members of the Church of Scientology, atheists and anyone else protected by the 1st amendment, can drop off cards sharing their message, and the VA is required to give it to all vets?

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Still so confused by the religious stuff...
Does this mean if JW, Mormons, members of the Church of Scientology, atheists and anyone else protected by the 1st amendment, can drop off cards sharing their message, and the VA is required to give it to all vets?

The actual vet should be given the option of whether they want a card or not, it should not be censored before it even gets to them. No one has ever said anything about anyone being forced to take a card. Why should someone go through the cards and censor them to decide whether or not the message is appropriate? Isn't that subjective anyway? If a vet doesn't want a card they say no. Pretty simple.

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"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I'm guessing they didn't go through the vetting procedure. But it seriously doesn't matter enough to me to dig up more articles on it. There are so many real injustices in this world...this one isn't really a big deal and it just seems like part of the mythical "war on Christmas" babble.

"I'm guessing" "It doesn't matter enough" "It just seems like" "mythical" "babble" So why even debate?

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"Rivergallery" wrote:

"I'm guessing" "It doesn't matter enough" "It just seems like" "mythical" "babble" So why even debate?

I'm sorry, I guess I should have checked with you before posting to see if you think my comments are relevant or not....how silly of me.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

The actual vet should be given the option of whether they want a card or not, it should not be censored before it even gets to them. No one has ever said anything about anyone being forced to take a card. Why should someone go through the cards and censor them to decide whether or not the message is appropriate? Isn't that subjective anyway? If a vet doesn't want a card they say no. Pretty simple.

I don't see the problem with the way they were supposed to be doing it. With the VA's stated policy, the actual vet is given the option of whether they want religious cards or not, just not with the donor standing right in front of them. I think that saves everyone from being in an ackward situation where a child is trying to give a vet a card, they look at the card, and then, what, give it back? Uncomfortable all around, and probably wouldn't happen anyway. What is more likely to happen in that scenario is that if it is a vet that doesn't want a religious card, they say thank you and then throw the card away as soon as the kids leave. Which, I agree, isn't the end of the world. This whole scenario is not the end of the world any way you slice it. But why not channel the cards to people who actually want them and will enjoy them?

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Quote Originally Posted by Rivergallery View Post
"I'm guessing" "It doesn't matter enough" "It just seems like" "mythical" "babble" So why even debate?

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I'm sorry, I guess I should have checked with you before posting to see if you think my comments are relevant or not....how silly of me.

Let me explain slower.. and more fully --- and again you belittled me with another post..
counterarguments are presented but you say "it doesn't matter enough" to look at the arguments.. or the research that is posted or links etc.. then you post ad hominum attacks to try and boost your side of the argument. and again you did it in your comment.. by belittling my comments.. You are the one who said that you do not want to look at the other argument.. so it is a valid question.. why participate in a debate board if you are not willing to explore the other side of the debate? at least read the literature presented by the other side.. or watch a video presented.. read quotes.. listen to what other debaters are saying etc.. without calling names.

I guess I am just getting tired of this being called a "debate board" as it doesn't follow the typical rules of debate anymore.

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dbl pst

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Rivergallery - I didn't see anything rude or belittling or that could even remotely be called a personal attack in any of Laurie's posts. If anything, I thought your post was a bit rude, but not so much that I felt the need to jump in. I noticed you brought up the same issues of feeling mocked and belittled on the Duck Dynasty thread, but I could also find no instances where anyone had mocked or belittled you or any other poster. This IS a debate board; that means that people on going to post often controversial topics and then disagree about them. Please don't take things personally that are not meant to be personal attacks.

ETA: I also meant to say that in this specific instance I took Laurie's "it doesn't matter" comment to mean that this particular debate is not pressing enough for her to dig up more resources to support her own side of the debate, not that she was unwilling to read anyone else's arguments. Again, I just don't see how that could be considered belittling to anyone posting on this board.

If you still have issues with the way things are being presented, please PM me or Missy with some specific examples so that we can talk through them.

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Exactly. If it didn't matter enough to read what people were posting -- as happens for me in the political debates -- then I wouldn't be offering up an opinion. I just didn't want to comb the web looking for research on giving religious cards to vets in hospitals. I think there are real issues of religious freedom that are very important and that this one was being blown out of proportion when there were SO many solutions available that would have satisfied everybody. The kids could have made non-religious cards. The hospital could have been smarter about vetting the cards to the right people. The teacher could have scheduled a visit without cards, or had the kids make crafts. Instead it became an issue and nobody was happy.

There are many religious people TRULY suffering from actual oppression; this didn't fall into that category.

You were rude to me and I responded in a way that I felt showcased your rudeness. You judged whether or not you thought it was valid for me to contribute, which is not really your place. All I did was point that out. Nor did I call ANYONE names.

I don't generally watch videos that anyone posts, I'll read news stories & the like but not sit through a video. I'm fussy that way. Again, not for you to judge.

But yes -- I wasn't not looking at the arguments in the debate, I was avoiding doing my own research to try to investigate what happened. You can choose to believe that or not, it seems you have some sort of issue with me. That's out of my hands.