FFRF Halts Christian Vending at Madison VA

(Madison, Wis.) Acting on a complaint from a patient at the Madison VA Hospital, the Freedom From Religion Foundation today protested the presence of Christian vendors setting up shop at the main entrance, through which every patient and employee must pass. The bookstore had set up shop yesterday and returned today. The bookstore had two large tables in the lobby, and more material in the auditorium. In addition, the Christian bookshop was posting large posters for sale of “The Last Supper” on the VA lobby walls.

Shortly after Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor phoned in a complaint this morning about “Inspired by Him Christian Bookstore,” she received a phone call from Allen Ackers, associate director of the Madison VA hospital, verifying that the presence of religious vendors was indeed a violation of VA policy, and he was having them removed immediately.

“What defies explanation is how the canteen department, knowing that religious vendors are not permitted, could not have realized from the name alone that there was a problem here with this bookstore!” Gaylor said.

Gaylor has requested a copy of the vendor contract or application, but has not yet received it. Ackers told her that all vendors in the future will be run by the administrative office for approval.

“What still concerns me is that the patient who complained to us was told by the vendors that they were setting up shop in VA hospitals throughout the Midwest,” Gaylor said.

“I am seeking assurance that religious vendors, and in particular this Christian bookstore, will no longer be permitted to set up shop at public-supported VA hospitals. I wonder how long this has been going on?”

Typically, vendors sell such items as candy or “scrubs.” The VA shares an unconfirmed percentage of the profits.

The Foundation is awaiting word from the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago over an appeal of its challenge of the integration of faith and spirituality into all aspects of healthcare at the Veterans Affairs Department. In February, Daniel L. Cooper, undersecretary for the Veterans Affairs Department, resigned, following a report by the Government Accountability Office finding that claims awaiting action by the VA under his watch have increased by more than 50%. Cooper was among high-ranking officials who appeared in a fundraising video filmed by Christian Embassy at the Pentagon in violation of Pentagon policy. He was quoted saying that religion was “more important than doing the job.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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