- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2015

A Veterans Affairs hospital in San Antonio has removed a Vietnam veteran’s Christmas decorations after deciding they were too religious in nature.

For 33 years, Ethel Holloway has been putting up Christmas decorations in the 1C unit of the Audie Murphy VA hospital. That is until Friday, when she found part of her display, including a Nativity scene, had been torn down, a local CBS News affiliate reported.

“They ruined our decorations. They threw them out,” Ms. Holloway said. “This stuff of taking down Christmas and not saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ you have to say ‘happy holidays’ and everything, I think it’s gone overboard.”

Grace Martinez, a neighbor and longtime friend who helped Ms. Holloway and her husband put up the decorations, was disappointed too, CBS reported.

“They literally took pieces from the middle of a whole train set, because the middle said ‘Merry Christmas,’ and the caboose and the engine were OK, so they left those two and took out the middle part,” Ms. Martinez said.

Ms. Holloway also had pictures of Hanukkah decorations and one saying “Feliz Navidad” that she said the hospital left untouched, CBS reported.

The hospital released an initial statement saying it had received a number of complaints about Ms. Holloway’s decorations being “overly religious and offensive.”

“Veterans entered the military to protect our freedoms, including the freedom to practice a religion of our choice,” the hospital said. “At VA, it is our duty to uphold and respect the honor and sacrifice of all Veterans, from all faiths and backgrounds.”

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System later told Fox News that officials meant to remove only the Nativity scene and that part of the train was damaged in the process.

“During the removal of a manger and specific scripture decoration, a Merry Christmas decoration was accidentally removed and damaged,” the VA said in a statement. “The remaining decorations were removed by the decoration donor and her representatives.”

The VA hospital said it has offered to reimburse Ms. Holloway for the damaged decorations, Fox News reported.

“We acknowledge that the corrective action should have been to display the faith-specific holiday decoration along with multiple religious faith symbols,” the statement read. “We are currently ensuring that our staff are educated and aware of the national policy and how it relates to decorations throughout the facility.”

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