FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – Christianity may be the dominant faith in the United States, but steps have been taken within the last week or so to make sure it doesn’t receive special treatment at Fort Wayne’s VA Hospital.
The change is being made in the name of religious neutrality.
Those who come to the VA medical center on Lake Avenue during hours of operation can pop into a chapel for prayer or worship anytime the facility is open.
For years, copies of the Bible and other symbols of the Christian faith, such as crosses, were on display in the chapel.
Officials with the local VA confirm within the last week, those items have been put in storage.
Public Affairs officer Thomas Blackburn released a statement, saying, “VA chapels are maintained as religiously neutral so that all visitors may seek comfort in the chapel as they see fit. Items that pertain to certain faiths are available during scheduled services…This is standard practice for all VA hospitals.”
Why Christian symbols were only recently removed is not completely clear, because the religious neutrality policy has been in force for a period of years.
A Department of Veterans Affairs letter we accessed from 2014 stated local VA’s have been given some discretion in this area.
We caught up with Vietnam Vet Pat Fraizer at the Waynedale American Legion Post, where a POW/MIA display is set up, featuring an open Bible.
He says veterans coming to the VA want access to something similar.
“We never know in our time of need, when we’re going to need some peace, and my point being, it should be readily available,” Fraizer said.
The change is supported by Imam Hamzah Sharif, who heads up the Islamic Center of Fort Wayne.
Muslim believers, in some cases, hold that religious symbols can distract from prayer or worship, especially when they are from a faith different from their own.
And Sharif added this about the VA chapel change.
“I think it’s more comfortable for me to pray in a place where I feel this place is not favoring anyone more than the other.”