The attorney for an Iowa Navy veteran who is Jewish, says he plans to file a lawsuit against the Iowa City veterans hospital for violating his client’s right. Attorney Mikey Weinstein represents 46-year-old David Miller of Iowa City.
Weinstein says the hospital repeatedly violated Miller’s civil rights by forcing their religious views on him. Weinstein says the hospital created a religion test and "totally obliterated the wall between church and state." Weinstein says a member of the media told him the hospital looks like a church inside. Weinstein says, "The D-V-A is supposed to stand for Department of Veterans Affairs, not for divinity for those veterans that we accept."
Weinstein says talks with hospital administrators have not gotten them any satisfaction. He says: "The only avenue left for us was to file a federal lawsuit. Lay down a withering field of fire, kick ass, take names and leave sucking chest wounds on this constitutional darkness that’s being run by the Veterans Affairs in that hospital in Iowa City." Weinstein is the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and says he’s only seek to get fair treatment for Miller.
Weinstein says he has nothing against Christianity, but he says the law requires religious neutrality. Weinstein says his client was "routinely and aggressively proselytized while hooked up to heart monitors." Weinstein says the Iowa City V-A hospital is part of a larger problem and he hopes to get more people to create a class action lawsuit.
"The problem is, right now in the Department of Defense, this particular administration has turned the entire Department of Defense into a faith-based initiative," Weinstein says, "We don’t get to have a Pentagon anymore, we get a Pentacostalagon, and the same thing has happened to the Department of Veterans Affairs." Weinstein says Miller is 100-percent disabled and completely dependent on the V-A for medical treatment.
The spokesperson for the Iowa City V-A hospital, Kirt Sickels, says he can’t say much about a lawsuit until it has actually been filed. He says he can’t comment on any allegations, and says they may be addressed by the regional council depending on if a lawsuit is filed. Sickels did have this to say about potential violations.
Sickels says allegations of any type "are always a concern to us and we will most definitely look into it." Sickels says the hospital respects the rights and religious beliefs of every patients and seeks to accommodate the religious beliefs of every patient. Sickels says they’re required to ensure the religious rights of everyone.
Sickels says it’s a standard practice based on our requirements for our accreditation that every private hospital does a "spiritual assessment" in which they address the patient and tries to find out and accommodate the patient’s spiritual needs. Sickels says the hospital does what it can to meet the needs of a diverse population.
"We strive very hard to provide opportunities for worship, for religious expression by our hospitalized veterans, by providing a little bit of ministry and pastoral counseling to them and to our family members if needed," Sickels says. He says they try to ensure that spiritual aspect of health and wellness is recognized by all caregivers and addressed in all settings in the hospital. Sickels says the Iowa City V-A hospital had 45,000 patients that serves in some way.