SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The U.S. Navy has upheld the inclusion of the Bible on a “missing man” table at a Naval hospital in Okinawa, Japan after an organization that seeks to separate the Messiah from the military submitted a complaint about the Bible’s presence and a notation of America being “one nation under God.”
“As one of nine symbolic references on the table, the purpose of the book and accompanying description is not to promote religion, but to commemorate the strength and resolve required of POW and MIA personnel in the most difficult of times,” wrote Rear Admiral P.D. Pearigen of Navy Medicine West in San Diego in a response to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), led by Mikey Weinstein.
“Each item on the table contributes to an atmosphere of remembrance and solemnity without emphasizing the book as a religious text,” he said. “In light of the foregoing, neither further review nor an investigation of this matter is necessary.”
As previously reported, 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.” The display additionally includes a place setting, a rose and a candle.
The Okinawa missing man table further featured a placard that provided the aforementioned text as to what the Bible represents.
After successfully having the Bible removed from a missing man table at an Ohio Air Force Base in 2016, the MRFF submitted a complaint to Pearigen about the Okinawa display through New York-based attorney Donald Rehkopf Jr. Weinstein said that 26 service members, including those who profess to be followers of Christ, were a part of the grievance, and asked for the removal of both the Bible and the placard.
“The statement on the exhibit’s placard is nothing more than an illegal, unconstitutional proselytization from an extremist, fundamentalist Christian sect,” the letter read. “It ignores all followers of other religions and totally ignores all those who subscribe to no religion—all in blatant violation of [Department of Defense] and [Department of the Navy] regulations.”
Weinstein initially contacted officials at the hospital to request the removal of the items at issue, but they declined to do so without the permission of the facility commander, who was away on assignment.
While it was reported that the matter was under investigation by Navy Medicine West, Pearigen wrote to Rehkopf on Tuesday to advise that no review is needed as the table passes regulatory and constitutional muster.
“I assure you that the Bible and description of the POW/MIA remembrance table are consistent with DoD and DON guidelines and with the Constitution,” he stated.
The response irked MRFF, which referred to the decision as being “embarrassingly imbecilic.” He disagreed with several parts of Pearigen’s correspondence.
“[I]t is beyond idiotic for the admiral to assert, because there are 8 other items on the POW/MIA table, somehow that sectarian Christian Bible does not stand out. On the contrary, that Christian Bible stands out like a tarantula on a wedding cake,” Weinstein wrote on Friday.
He also contended that the original missing man table didn’t include a Bible, and stated that Pearigen’s letter “utterly fails to acknowledge the fact that the accompanying National League of POW/MIA Families script (translated into Japanese for indigenous personnel to read) on that POW/MIA table does not even mention the critical significance of the candle placed on that table but, instead and in its place, makes it clear why that all-important Christian Bible is prominently displayed.”
Weinstein expressed determination to continue to combat the Bible and placard placement.
“MRFF … remains both resolute and fully committed to vehemently fight Admiral Pearigen’s ridiculous, illogical and unlawful decision to defy Constitutional law and DoD/Navy regulatory provisions with his disgraceful actions,” he said.
As previously reported, Weinstein has a long history of objecting to Christian expression in the military. In 2013, he asked Department of Defense officials to punish superiors who attempted to proselytize their subordinates.
“It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” Weinstein asserted.
He also appeared before Congress a year later, where he was questioned by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) about his hostility toward Christianity.
“On June 16, 2013, you said, ‘Today we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nations armed forces.’ Did you you make that quote?” Forbes asked.
“I did,” Weinstein replied frankly.
In 2015, he wrote a blog post calling for the ousting of Christian chaplains who disagree with same-sex “marriage,” and also demanded that Satan, Allah Odin and others be added to a “God bless the military” display in Hawaii.