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Vet sues VA over Bible displayed on POW/MIA memorial table

The Holy Bible (Kevin Probst/WikiCommons)
May 09, 2019

On Tuesday, an Air Force veteran filed a federal lawsuit against the director of the Manchester VA Medical Center to remove a Bible on public display.

Air Force veteran and devout Christian James Chamberlain says the Bible displayed in the medical center on the POW/MIA memorial table is a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause and should be removed, Military.com reported.

The lawsuit, which targets VA director Alfred Montoya, alleges “that the government may not establish any religion. Nor can the government give favoritism to one religious belief at the expense of others.”

Chamberlain argues in his lawsuit that the table should memorialize anyone that served, not just Christians.

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The Bible in question has a deep history and was carried by a WWII POW. It now sits in the entranceway at the medical center on a table that specifically honors missing vets and POWs, according to the Air Force Times.

The table where the Bible is displayed is sponsored by the Northeast POW/MIA Network, a dedicated veteran’s group.

After complaints in January by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the medical center eliminated the Bible from the display. They had received grievances from 14 patients representing various religions who also felt it was a First Amendment violation.

Complaints then surfaced opposing the Bible’s removal and people began to bring Bibles to the medical center to protest.

Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Curt Cashour said the Bible was eliminated “out of an abundance of caution.”

The following month, the Bible was back on the table, this time encased in an acrylic box and bolted to the table. The medical center weighed their legal responsibility with attorneys and decided to place the Bible back on the table for good. Cashour said the table is “a secular tribute to America’s POW/MIA community.”

Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said the very presence of the Bible is offensive. He said, “It’s incredibly disrespectful, dishonorable, and most importantly, it’s illegal.”

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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”

Mike Berry, chief of staff at First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom advocacy group said, “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.”