A Bible which belonged to a prisoner of war is now at the heart of a protracted legal battle at a veterans’ medical center in New Hampshire.
The Bible, once carried by a World War II veteran, has been the central feature on a “Missing Man” table memorial, which honors prisoners of war and missing soldiers. The display is placed at the entrance to the
Manchester Veterans’ Administration Medical Center.
What is wrong with the display being there?
Well, an organization called the “Military Religious Freedom Foundation” find the display beyond offensive, claiming that it violates the constitution in a profound way. They claim that some fifteen veterans have lodged complaints with them over the display.
“That sectarian Christian Bible bolted down to that POW/MIA table at the Manchester NH VAMC is a grotesque gang sign of fundamentalist Christian triumphalism, exceptionalism and supremacy, indeed a middle finger of unconstitutional repugnance to the plurality and separation of church and state guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution,” Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, MRFF’s founder and president, told the Military Times.
He added: “The Christian Bible clearly doesn’t represent all of the myriad religious faiths and non-faith traditions of the U.S. armed forces veterans using the Medical Center and to presume that it does is quite blatantly unconstitutional, unethical and illicit.”
Not satisfied with filing a federal lawsuit, the MRFF also decided to hire a small plane and fly over the hospital grounds with a banner that declared:
“VAMC — Honor all POW/MIA — Remove Bible.”
After the initial complaint back in January, VA officials did agree to remove the book. However, it appeared just a month later, encased in a box and bolted to the table.
The initial removal had been completed “out of an abundance of caution,” said Curt Cashour, a Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman, according to the Air Force Times. However, officials changed their minds when veterans of faith objected to the display being tampered with in this way. In protest, many “dropped off Bibles at the facility,” Cashour said.
Religious Freedom Advocacy group “First Liberty Institute,” praised VA for its decision to reinstate the Bible.
“Veterans organizations like the Northeast POW/MIA Network should be able to honor and remember those killed, captured or missing with a display that includes a Bible donated by a WWII veteran that represents the strength through faith necessary for American service members to survive,” First Liberty’s Chief of Staff, Mike Berry, said in a statement.
“First Liberty recently represented the Northeast POW/MIA Network in successfully ensuring that the POW/MIA Remembrance display it donated would remain intact at the Manchester VA Medical Center.”
Berry added that he was “confident the MRFF will continue their losing record.”
“It’s sad that the MRFF continues its efforts to bully the VA at the expense of our veterans and service members,” he concluded.
We will keep you posted with the case as it progresses.