A naval air station in Japan has raised the ire of at atheist activists and several sailors after a Bible was placed on the POW/MIA table at the Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) says they received 15 complaints about the “unconstitutional presence” of a Christian Bible on the facilities POW/MIA table display, and had promptly sent a letter “demanding that this symbol of Christian supremacy by swiftly removed.”
MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein’s letter went on to alert Captain John M. Montagnet of a “very serious violation of the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution sadly occurring under your direct command,” the warning read.
Weinstein went on to question Captain Montagnet’s leadership, writing “These sailors are justly fearful of unlawful retribution, revenge, retaliation and reprisal if they raise their complaints to you, sir, through your NAF Atsugi chain of command which obviously calls into question the command climate you are responsible for at NAF Atsugi. Thus, they have come to MRFF to carry their grievances to you directly, Captain Montagnet.”
According to military website Stripes.com, “The POW-MIA table is a tradition often found in official military dining facilities that honors missing and captured service members.”
Instruction of how to set up the table say it “must be round and include a white tablecloth, an empty chair, a black napkin, a single red rose, a yellow candle and ribbon, lemon slices, salt and an overturned wine glass.”
Stripes also reports that “The regulation says the display includes a Bible to represent “faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.”
Weinstein, who himself is an Air Force veteran, said ““This is not a move against Christianity, but one toward inclusivity. Not every sailor is a white, straight Anglo-Saxon Christian male.”
Base spokesman Sam Samuelson responded in a statement, saying ““The POW-MIA table here is a significant legacy display intended to memorialize and honor American POWs and MIAs among a varied military demographic and is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. We can absolutely balance the larger meaning of the table with appropriate policies and the interests of our diverse base culture.”
Weinstein added that his goal isn’t to eliminate Bibles, but rather to “promote religious diversity.” He also added that including the Bible in a display such as this “alienates service members of other cultural or religious groups and is wrong on every possible level.”
“No religious text, not just the Bible, has a place in that display,” he argued.
Weinstein did not elaborate on how excluding every religion and worldview, other than his own, promotes “religious diversity.”