VA: Bible stays – other holy books left on ‘missing man’ display must go

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Additional religious texts were added to the POW/MIA missing man table at the Manchester VA on May 16. Photo/MRFF

MANCHESTER, NH  — According to one local veteran who objects to the Bible display inside the VA Hospital, adding holy books from other faiths seemed like a pretty good compromise.

The veteran, who dropped the books discretely and anonymously on the table Thursday, said it’s too bad the VA has ordered the books removed.

“I just want all religions represented or none at all. Some of the younger folks who come to the VA don’t have any religion at all. Putting some religious texts on a religious display is not breaking any laws,” he said. “In fact, we’re just helping the VA dig themselves out of a jam they’ve gotten themselves into — if anything, we’re trying to help.”

The “jam” is a federal lawsuit filed May 7 by plaintiff James L. Chamberlain, who is suing the VA because he wants the Bible removed from the “missing man table” lobby display. Chamberlain says it’s unconstitutional for the Bible to be displayed as such, a violation of the Establishment Clause, which mandates the separation of church and state.

Chamberlain is being represented by Attorney Lawrence Vogelman of Nixon, Vogelman, Barry, Slawsky & Simoneau.

Additional religious texts and a blank notebook have been added to the missing man table anonymously, by one of 15 local veterans who object to the current Bible display. Photo/MRFF

After the five books — a Koran, The Book of Mormon, a Wiccan book, a Jewish prayer book and a blank notebook — were left on the table Thursday, they were promptly removed by the VA, which said groups and individuals must get permission from VA facilities to host displays on VA property, according to VA property.

“We will not tolerate interference with and/or alteration of approved displays – such as this Northeast POW/MIA Network-sponsored POW/MIA table – and as a result these items will be removed,” said Curt Cashour, Press Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Removal of the five additional books is a “wretched punctuation mark” reinforcing the discriminatory display, says Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Weinstein wrote:

“If the Veterans Administration insists on unconstitutionally establishing Christianity as the sole official faith of the VA by leaving that sectarian bible, imprisoned in a transparent plexiglass case bolted to the POW/MIA table which is meant for all, let us see how the VA will deal with the other faith and non-faith texts which have just been placed there. Indeed, it would take a POW/MIA table the size of a football field to hold all of the religious and nonreligious texts of all such myriad traditions practiced by the millions of honorable American military veterans.

“And THAT is precisely the point; NO religious nor nonreligious texts should be there at ALL; especially not the Christian bible which is merely the religious text of the majority of veterans and has no other claims to supremacy other than that meaningless fact. America is a secular democratic republic which relishes its substantial diversity and broad pluralism especially, within the ranks of its veterans and active duty military.

“As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor opined from the bench of the highest Court in the land, “’n America, we do NOT count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.’

Honor ALL American veterans; VAMC remove that Christian bible now!”

Prior to the removal of the books by the VA on Thursday, Chamberlain, who describes himself as a “devout Christian,” submitted this post detailing his objections to having the Bible on display.

About this Author


Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!