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Bible and POW/MIA Memorial Displays Attacked



April 20, 2016

4 min read

Religious Liberty



A vitriolic group is once again attacking our service members’ religious freedoms.

Their MRFF’s latest target is the POW/MIA memorial displays known as “Missing Man” tables.

Missing Man tables are a deeply significant tradition honoring military POW and MIAs. Generally, these tables include numerous symbols such as a white cloth, a single red rose, a slice of lemon, salt, a candle, an inverted glass, an empty chair, and a Bible. Each item holds special significance, and the Bible represents the “strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.”

This group has been systematically targeting institutions that include the Bible as part of their Missing Man display. For example, they bullied Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics in Akron, Ohio, and Youngstown, Ohio, into removing the Bible from their displays.

In like fashion, earlier this month, the group sent a letter to leadership at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio demanding the removal of a Bible from their Missing Man display. In typical caustic style, their letter to Wright-Patterson leadership uses scare tactics and bullying stating,

I am sure you are aware of the immense public scrutiny the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in Akron, Ohio, and Youngstown, Ohio came under during the process in which MRFF successfully had their unconstitutional Biblical displays removed. I am certain you do not wish the same for WPAFB.

After receiving the letter, base leadership decided to remove the Bible from the display.

Just yesterday, the group's leader emailed Col. Gregory Peterson of Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania and demanded the removal of the Bible from their POW/MIA table display.

The email to Col. Peterson stated:

Your utilization of ONLY the Christian religious scripture in your POW/MIA memorial display is a pernicious example of unconstitutional, fundamentalist Christian primacy, supremacy, exceptionalism and triumphalism. It is in direct violation of America’s Constitution, its construing Federal and State case law as well as a plethora of DoD and Army directives, regulations and instructions which specifically exist to protect the civil rights and liberties of all Army military and civilian personnel, not merely those who adhere to the ‘correct’ version of the Christian faith.

Supremacy? Exceptionalism? The only item complained of from the displays was the Christian symbol—the Bible. Moreover, although “America’s Constitution [and] its construing Federal and State case law” are alluded to, no cite to any actual case law is cited in the email.

In demanding the removal of the Bible, the allegation that its inclusion violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Once again, they are is just plain wrong.

While the Bible is part of the overall Missing Man display, it is simply that—one part of a larger table setting. In Lynch v Donnelly, the Supreme Court upheld a Christmas display that included a crèche that was part of a larger holiday display involving secular symbols. Similarly, the presence of a Bible as part of the overall table display does not create a constitutional violation.

We at the ACLJ are committed to fighting such egregious attacks on Christianity in the military. In response to this latest round of attacks on Missing Man memorials, we are preparing critical legal letters explaining that the inclusion of a Bible as part of a larger table display does not violate the Constitution.

The military must not be duped into banning the Bible by a group that has undertaken a scorched earth campaign to eviscerate faith from our military, and whose leader publicly calls Christians in the military "monsters who terrorize."

Quite simply honoring the faith of our brave men and women in the military does not cause a constitutional crisis.

Our military members selflessly protect and defend our freedoms at home and abroad. It is important that we stand up to groups seeking to limit the constitutionally protected rights of our service men and women. At the ACLJ, we will continue to fight for the religious liberties of our service members.

Add your name to our critical legal letters defending religious liberty – and the Bible – in the military today.


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