It really takes a special kind of low-life to desecrate a military display honoring prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Over the past several months the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has waged a campaign to have Bibles removed from “Missing Man” displays located on federal property. They claim the inclusion of the Bible is a violation of federal law.
So far at least three VA medical clinics and one Air Force base have complied with the MRFF’s demands to cleanse the displays of the Good Book.
I have been reporting on this religious cleansing for the past two years – and now a group of conservative organizations is preparing to fight back against the MRFF.
Fox News has exclusively obtained a letter sent to Robert McDonald, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs – urging him to reinstate the Bible to the Missing Man displays.
“The removal of the Bible not only violates the integrity of these displays, but insults those returned POWs who gained daily strength from their faith in the prisons of our enemies,” they wrote. “When a governmental agency such as the VA removes any part of the display, it is a grave insult to the nation’s veterans who often gather together to honor those who have not returned, while also interfering with the message being expressed.”
The letter was signed by representatives from Family Research Council, American Family Association, First Liberty Institute, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Center for Military Readiness, Freedom Alliance, Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, Freedom X, Judicial Watch, LION Associates, Military-Veterans Advocacy, Stand Up America US and the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers.
Secretary McDonald did not return my telephone calls or emails.
“There is definitely an all-out assault on the Christian faith within our military today,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council and one of the signers.
Boykin accused the VA of having a “knee-jerk” reaction to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
“It’s a sad situation that a guy would actually try to destroy the traditions of our military and the basic values of our country,” he told me.
The Missing Man Table was established during the Vietnam era. It was a solemn reminder of those who were Prisoners of War or Missing in Action.
The tables are typically displayed on military bases and VA clinics – and they are steeped in tradition. There are empty chairs for each of the five services, a red rose, an inverted glass, a yellow ribbon, salt sprinkled on a plate, a lemon slice, a candle – and a Bible.
“The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God,” reads the official ceremony script.
But the Military Religious Freedom Foundation believes the Bible’s presence on the Missing Man table represents a violation of the law.
Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of the MRFF, demanded VA clinics in Youngstown, Ohio and Akron, Ohio remove the Bibles from the displays.
In a disgusting act of cowardice, VA officials in Youngstown and Akron obeyed Weinstein’s demands and removed the Bibles. The MRFF also reports that a VA clinic in Houston got rid of the Bible, too.
The Youngstown clinic replaced the Bible with a “generic book” – a prop - “One whose symbolism can be individualized by each of our veterans as they pay their respects,” a VA official told Vindy.com.
In a separate incident, the Bible was also removed from a display at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“This is not persecution or victimization of Christianity,” Weinstein told the Air Force Times. “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.”
A base spokesperson confirmed to the newspaper that the Bible had been stripped from the display.
“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,” spokesperson Marie Vanover told the Times.
And by mutual respect – they mean anything remotely related to the Christian faith must be cleansed from the United States military.
I hope Secretary McDonald follows the wise counsel of conservative leaders like Gen. Boykin.
And I also hope he listens to the words of people like Ann Mills-Griffiths, the chairman of the board for the National League of POW/MIA Families.
Her brother, Commander James B. Mills, disappeared somewhere over North Vietnam on Sept. 21, 1966. The 26-year-old naval aviator remains classified as missing in action.
“The Bible kept many of our POWs alive and sustained their families through decades of uncertainty,” she told me. “The Bible has always been a part of the tradition. Until now – no one has ever suggested the Bible should be removed from the table.”
Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation should be ashamed – declaring war on such a revered military tradition.
The Missing Man table is not about you, Mr. Weinstein. It’s about brave patriots like Commander James B. Mills and their families.
Never forget that.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.