According to a Freedom from Religion Foundation news release (awareness of which came my way via Daylight Atheism), the FFRF “filed a lawsuit yesterday in federal court, challenging the pervasive integration of ‘spirituality’ into health care by the Department of Veteran Affairs.” The complaint cites a number of practices at certain VA Health Centers, practices so bizarre they make me wonder if this is all a practical joke or some sort of misunderstanding:
A “spiritual/faith assessment” is made of each patient admitted into the VA medical system, and VA chaplains determine whether there is “spiritual injury or sickness.” These assessments routinely record in painstaking detail patient belief in God or a higher power, prayer, churchgoing, etc.
For instance, the Sheridan WY VA Medical Center initial “spiritual assessment” asks how often they attend religious services, pray, read scriptural or spiritual literature and listen to such programs on radio or TV, how often they study the bible, and “experience the presence of the Divine.” The assessment scores patients on “spiritual injury.” The Big Spring VA Medical Center’s assessment includes this leading question: “How often do you worry about your doubts or disbelief in God?”
The complaint observes that the VA now “provides pastoral services not as an accommodation to veteran’s free exercise rights” but because it “deems pastoral services for all patients, including veterans receiving outpatient medical services, to be a necessary part of medical treatment.” The VA encourages all patients “to tap into their alleged spiritual resources of faith,” with VA chaplains involved as “part of the treatment team for all patients.”
The FFRF has posted two of the Big Spring VA Medical Center “spiritual inventories” here. If every patient is indeed required to answer such things, and evaluated for an “injury” on that basis, then that is something to be concerned about, indeed. On the other hand, this kind of thing makes me wonder if I will be able to apply for disability for deepening atheism during my military tenure.
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