Complaints from a civil rights group has forced the removal of a World War II Bible from a veterans hospital display, although the group says the Bible’s new location is just as problematic.
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., last year allowed a museum-like “Missing Man Display” to be assembled to honor the nation’s POWs and missing veterans.
The display involved an empty chair at a kitchen table, with a plate, drinking glass, candle, flower, American flag and salt shaker sitting atop a table cloth, WMUR reported. A Bible that was carried by a POW in World War II also was part of the display, but it was removed after a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Veteran Paul Martin and his Northeast POW-MIA Network were in charge of the display.
“That Bible is not just a religious artifact -- that some people would say they’re stuffing religion down my throat,” Martin told WMUR. “What it means is this guy held on to a lot of faith and hope, family and trust in this nation that they would do everything they possibly could to bring him home.”
The hospital transferred the Bible from the Missing Man Display, which is behind ropes out in the open, to a protected case behind glass. That is just as problematic to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which says 14 veterans have complained.
“That is still a Christian Bible,” Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told WMUR. “It is still promoting -- particularly in the surrounding aspect of the POW-MIA remembrance, one of the most sacred things you could do in the military -- one faith over another faith.”
Weinstein added, “One of our 14 is having serious issues with suicide. And this is pushing him closer.”
He quoted another veteran as saying, “Now it's in a more prominent location. Now, everybody who exits the VA, it’s right there in your face.”
The hospital, though, says the Bible will remain where it is. It released a statement to WMUR saying hospital officials “consulted with appropriate legal counsel before placing this treasured WWII artifact, which happens to be a Bible, with the display, and is confident that this does not impinge on Constitutional protections.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Kiwihug/Unsplash
Video courtesy: WMUR-TV
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.