After receiving two letters from Alliance Defense Fund attorneys, hospital officials at Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center have agreed to allow the chaplain of two veterans’ organizations access to patients. Previously, hospital officials denied Martin Colburn, a Christian chaplain, from visiting patients who asked to meet with him.
“Christians shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs, especially not a chaplain whose presence has been specifically requested by patients. We commend hospital officials for correcting this problem and demonstrating their commitment to honor the constitutional rights of both Mr. Colburn and the veterans who desire his services,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Daniel Blomberg.
In a Feb. 13 letter, Colburn, a retired veteran who serves as a chaplain for the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans organizations and had been volunteering his time for over four years, was informed by the hospital’s chief of voluntary services that he would no longer have access to the hospital due to the “religious content” of his activities. Colburn provided brief prayers and Bible reading only to patients who had either given him permission or had requested his services in advance.
After receiving a letter from ADF attorneys, the hospital once again permitted Colburn to visit the hospital. However, officials later rescinded his access, citing a “Visiting Clergy” policy which only allows clergy to visit members of their local congregation and only after scheduling visits with the Chaplain Service office. The hospital also suggested that Colburn’s religious credentials would need to be evaluated to determine whether he was “qualified.”
After receiving a second letter from ADF, along with correspondence from Wis. congressman and doctor Steve Kagen, the hospital agreed to allow Colburn to resume visiting patients with whom he already had relationships or who specifically requested his visitation.
“Because many of the patients Mr. Colburn serves cannot leave their beds, the care he provides would not be possible otherwise,” said Blomberg. “At such a difficult period in the lives of our cherished veterans, such a service is invaluable. We are thankful to hospital officials who worked with us to eliminate the barriers that prevented Mr. Colburn from serving our wounded warriors.”
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