Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby asks Veterans Affairs to explain why woman not allowed to give Christmas gifts at Montgomery facility

January 2, 2014
Roby in the News

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, today asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to explain any policies that could have barred an Alabama woman from passing out Christmas gift bags and cards to patients at a Montgomery hospital.

After a similar incident in Texas recently, the VA said there was no such policy and there had been a misunderstanding.

After learning of the Montgomery incident, Roby said she spoke with the woman, Jordan McLendon, 20, of Wetumpka.

McLendon made more than 100 gift bags and Christmas cards to deliver to the veterans at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care Systems Medical Center in Montgomery.

She did so in honor of her late grandfather, a Vietnam veteran, and out of concern that some veterans at the hospital don’t have visitors at Christmas, according to a news story on WSFA. When she tried to deliver the presents on Christmas Eve, a hospital official told her she could not deliver all of them because “Merry Christmas” was written on some of the cards and bags.

"I was touched by the thoughtfulness and patriotism Jordan showed by wanting to do something special for veterans on Christmas, then horrified to learn that such an act of kindness would be restricted in the name of political correctness," Roby said in a news release.

"We try to teach our children to respect and honor those who serve our country, and to show kindness and compassion to others. What kind of message is our government sending by discouraging selfless acts of giving unless they are sterilized to remove anything remotely religious?"

In a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Roby asked for a copy of any policies or regulations that “expressly prohibit the distribution of material in VA facilities that include the word Jesus, Christ, Christmas, or similar” or, if no such policy exists, to explain how the department can make sure such an incident is not repeated.

"My frustration is not with the VA staff at the local facility, who appear to have reluctantly enforced what they believe to be an existing regulation," Roby wrote. "I understand that similar incidents have occurred at other VA facilities in the past.

“Rather, my concern is that such a senseless policy exists to begin with, or, in the case that no such policy expressly prohibits mentioning Christmas in cases like this, that the culture of bureaucracy at the VA would encourage facility administrators to err on the side of suppressing religious expression and discouraging acts of kindness toward veterans.”

There was a similar incident at the Dallas VA Medical Center, when children were prohibited from distributing Christmas cards. After that incident, the VA said that there had been a misunderstanding and there was no policy against cards with religious themes.

To read this article on the publication's website, click here.