Atheist group sues over Bible display at VA hospital in New Hampshire

An atheist group filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Department of Veterans Affairs over a Bible displayed at a VA facility in New Hampshire.

The group called the Bible's presence in the missing veterans and POWs memorial unconstitutional and an “outrage,” but the VA says it won't be "bullied" into removing the Bible from the display.

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The Bible was donated to Manchester VA Medical Center by former U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Sergeant (TSgt) Herman "Herk" Streitburger, of Bedford, who was held captive in a German Prisoner of War camp during World War II.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said it filed the lawsuit on behalf of a New Hampshire veteran.

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“That is stamping it with the approval of raising one faith over all the others,” Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told USA Today. “From our perspective, it’s a repugnant example of fundamentalist Christian triumphalism, exceptionalism, superiority, and domination, and it cannot stand.”

A Bible donated by a World War II veteran on display in a Manchester VA Medical Center memorial is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on behalf of a New Hampshire veteran.

A Bible donated by a World War II veteran on display in a Manchester VA Medical Center memorial is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on behalf of a New Hampshire veteran. (Courtesy of First Liberty Institute)

Department of Veteran Affair Press Secretary Curt Cashour told Fox News the Bible, although incorrectly moved earlier this year, stays.

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"This lawsuit – backed by a group known for questionable practices and unsuccessful lawsuits – is nothing more than an attempt to force VA into censoring a show of respect for America’s POW/MIA community," Cashour said. "Make no mistake: VA will not be bullied on this issue."

The VA briefly removed the Bible from the display case when MRFF initially complained about it, but put it back following an outpouring of complaints from veterans groups and religious liberty groups, including the First Liberty Institute, the same law firm that argued on behalf of the Bladensburg "Peace Cross" memorial in front of the Supreme Court earlier this year.

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The MRFF lawsuit described the New Hampshire veteran, James Chamberlain, as a “devout Christian” who wants the Bible removed from the display.

A Bible donated by a World War II veteran on display in a Manchester VA Medical Center memorial is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on behalf of a New Hampshire veteran.

A Bible donated by a World War II veteran on display in a Manchester VA Medical Center memorial is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on behalf of a New Hampshire veteran. (Office of Public Affairs, Manchester VA Medical Center via AP)

“As a Christian, he respects and loves all his military brothers and sisters and does not want to be exclusionary by placement of the Christian Bible,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring that the Bible be removed from the display.

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Those in favor of keeping the Bible on display said the lawsuit is frivolous.

“POW/MIA Remembrance displays have a long, cherished history in our nation,” said Mike Berry, chief of staff at the First Liberty Institute. “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.”