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Activist wants sacred Hindu text in Manchester VA lobby

Bhagavad Gita (nmoodley/Pixabay)

A Hindu activist said he has waited more than a year for officials at the Manchester VA Medical Center to place a copy of the sacred Hindu text — the Bhagavad Gita — in the entrance lobby of the main building.

Rajan Zed, president of the Reno, Nev.-based Universal Society of Hinduism, seeks to add the work to a missing man POW-MIA table where the VA has displayed a Judeo-Christian Bible for nearly two years.

The placement of the Bible is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit pitting the federal government against an organization that opposes displays of religion in military contexts.

“How much more time Manchester VAMC needs to decide a simple issue of a small lobby display?” reads a press releases issued by Zen on Tuesday.

In an email, VA spokeswoman Katherine Tang said the VA cannot comment because of pending litigation.

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It’s unclear how many Hindus Zed speaks for. In a follow-up email, Zed said the Universal Society is not a membership organization; it takes up issues globally.

A Facebook page attributed to the site counts 1,195 followers and last had a post in 2013.

Zed provided the email sent to former VA director Alfred Montoya and other VA officials in September 2019. He offered to provide a copy of the Bhagavad Gita once the officials approve its placement.

He said the addition would be appropriate because the Manchester VAMC offers yoga at several locations. Zed sent another request earlier this month, he said.

In May 2019, a veteran backed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation sued over the presence of the Bible. They said the Bible represents an unconstitutional entanglement of religion and government.

Vice President Mike Pence has addressed the American Legion convention about the controversy, saying the Trump administration will not allow the VAs to be religion-free zones.

COVID-19 has slowed the case; according to an online court docket, the case remains on hold until Oct. 26.

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© 2020 The New Hampshire Union Leader