AKRON, Ohio — A Veterans Administration clinic in Ohio has removed a Bible from a display honoring prisoners of war (POW) and those missing in action (MIA) following a complaint from a church-state separation group.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), led by its controversial president, Mikey Weinstein, claims that it had received complaints from 11 patients at the Akron clinic, seven of whom identified themselves as being Christian.
“Did I miss out on the memo that America was a theocracy and we are all supposed to be worshiping Jesus Christ?” one reportedly stated. “[I]t seems the vast majority of Christians want to make everything about them.”
The display at issue was a “missing man table” that included a place setting, a rose, a candle and a Bible, along with a framed Bible verse. The table had been set by area volunteers in honor of POW’s and those MIA.
Weinstein contacted the clinic after receiving the alleged complaints. Facility administrator Brian Reinhart told reporters that he had not heard any objections the presence of the Bible other than from Weinstein.
However, after receiving a call from MRFF, he agreed to remove the Bible and accompanying message.
“In discussing it with the volunteers, we thought as though it was the best course of action since several veterans did express concerns [to Weinstein] regarding it,” Reinhart told Fox’s Todd Starnes.
He consequently sent an email to MRFF to advise that the items had been removed.
“I just wanted to let you know that the Bible has been removed from our POW table and the Bible verse has been removed from the framed Scripture,” Reinhart wrote to Weinstein.
MRFF says that it is pleased with the decision.
“MRFF’s veteran client soldiers, and we at MRFF as well, applaud this VA Clinic Administrator’s sage wisdom and courage in recognizing that the U.S. military is comprised of hundreds if not thousands of diverse faiths as well as no faiths,” Weinstein said in a statement. “We heartily commend his taking decisive and swift action to remedy the situation so that the MIA/POW table truly honors all.”
But some state that the VA should not have caved to MRFF’s demands.
“It is a sad day when the Veteran’s Administration caves to one narrow view of the proper way to honor the courage and sacrifice of those who have dedicated their lives in service of their country,” Ron Crews, the executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Starnes. “Many have died to protect the right of Americans to have and read the Bible. Surely we can honor their sacrifice by allowing a Bible at their table of remembrance.”
According to the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Bible is traditionally present at “missing man” tables, and “represents the strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.”