DAYTON, Ohio — An Air Force base 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.
According to reports, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) recently wrote to officials at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base after the organization allegedly received more than 30 complaints about the display. MRFF claims that 10 of those who complained identified as Christian.
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. 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.”
But in its letter to the Wright-Patterson Air Force base, MRFF asserted that the table should be moved to the base chapel or that it should be more inclusive of other religions.
“This is simply an example where the Air Force should have a policy that makes it absolutely clear that nobody’s religious affiliation is on [exclusive] display,” President Mikey Weinstein told the Air Force Times.
Days later, the base chose to remove the Bible from the missing man table.
“We thoroughly assessed this particular situation and made the determination to remove the Bible,” Marie Vanover, spokesperson for Wright-Patterson, told reporters. “Mutual respect is an essential part of the Air Force culture and we must ensure we create an environment in which people can realize their highest potential, regardless of one’s personal religious or other beliefs.”
However, while Weinstein was pleased with the development, the move concerned Ohio Congressman Mike Turner. He wrote a letter to Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson.
“It’s a very dangerous precedent to have a group that has an issue campaign to effect policy on a government installation merely by complaining,” Turner, who also serves on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Dayton Daily News. “Their voice should not be any greater than anyone else’s. This is an issue of national policy, not an issue of individual affront or concern, and it needs to be handled in that manner.”
He said that he feared that the removal would become a trend.
“It is simply unacceptable that personnel removed the Bible from the display, and I am concerned that similar efforts to restrict religious freedom may be made at other military installations,” Turner stated.
As previously reported, a Bible was similarly removed from a missing man table at a Veteran’s Administration clinic in Akron following a complaint from MRFF in February. A Bible was also removed from a display at a Veteran’s facility in Youngstown as well.
Weinstein has vowed to “attack aggressively” any similar displays that he believes violate the “separation of church and state.”