December 2016 Church & State - December 2016

Worker At Ariz. Veterans’ Home Objects To Proselytism

  AU admin

A Department of Veterans Affairs employee was escorted away by police after asking whether it’s a violation of separation of church and state to have religious proselytizers handing out Bibles at the federal hospital in Phoenix. 

Jesse Gonzales, who works at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center as a dental assistant, told the Arizona Republic that three men solicited him to take a free Bible on Oct. 20. When he questioned whether they were allowed to distribute religious material on federal property, an “argument erupted,” and Gonzales said one of the men used an obscenity. 

At that point, two VA police officers escorted Gonzales away while allowing the proselytizers to continue handing out Bibles.

“These guys weren’t even supposed to be there,” Gonzales said. “And here they were yelling at me? I believe in the Constitution. … But then the police hauled me away.”

Gonzales contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which got in touch with the hospital’s then-acting director, Shawn Bransky. Bransky apologized to Gonzales and admitted that the religious proselytizers did not have authorization to proselytize on the property. 

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