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Atheist group loses suit against VA over religious assessments

Madison's Freedom from Religion Foundation had no right to sue the Department of Veterans Affairs for putting religion in its veterans' health care programs.

That's what a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled this week. It said the foundation and three of its members had no legal standing in the matter.

The group was trying to get VA hospitals to stop doing religious assessments of their patients, saying it violates the separation of church and state.

The foundation also wanted the government hospitals to stop using chaplains, and cut out drug and alcohol treatment programs which incorporate religion.

The appeals court said taxpayers can only challenge expenses which are specifically approved by Congress and the VA's religious programs were never a part of any spending bill.

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said it's disturbing that courts let the government endorse religion without restraint.

But she said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was not likely, because the case would be hard to win.