Boy, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation sure showed them.
Earlier this month, the MRFF discovered that, at a Lexington, Kentucky, Veterans Administration facility, the so-called “Missing Man Table,” which commemorates prisoners of war and those missing in action, had a Bible on it!
Of all the issues in the world that needed to be addressed, here’s one that needed immediate addressing. In a letter to the executive director of the VA facility, the MRFF insisted they “immediately remove the illicit, unconstitutional Christian proselytizing material (from the ‘Gideons International’) organization.”
“Executive Director Armstead, you’re allowing this partisan display to promote and proselytize Christianity and ONLY Christianity is an atrocious and singularly ignominious act of illicit, unconstitutional Christian supremacy, exclusivity, triumphalism, and exceptionalism,” the group wrote in the letter.
So, the VA facility let these idiots win.
First, according to a piece by MRFF Senior Research Director Chris Rodda on liberal commentary site Daily Kos, the VA removed the table entirely. Then, on Tuesday, the MRFF announced that they had secured a “major victory” and that the table had been restored — except with a journal in the place of a Bible.
“I am sorry to hear that you and twelve Veteran patients feel your religious freedoms were infringed upon,” Medical Center Director Russell Armstead said in his letter to the MRFF.
“Respecting the dignity of every Veteran is very important to us. We are committed to addressing all Veteran concerns as we ensure safe, high quality care for all our Veterans.
“Our commitment extends to aspects of considering the whole health of every Veteran from ensuring their rights to make their own healthcare decisions, to protecting and preserving their rights and freedoms on federal properties,” he continued.
“It is clear to see that from your letters and petitions that even when our best efforts are employed these lines may be unintentionally blurred; thank you for bringing this matter to my attention and giving us the opportunity to respond.”
Now, he said that “[a]ll table displays within VA Lexington Health Care System will contain the following: small table, white tablecloth, single rose, vase, yellow ribbon, slice of lemon, salt, bread plate, glass, candle, empty chair, and a journal.” [Emphasis ours.]
Yes, a journal in place of the Bible. Not that there’s anything wrong with journaling, mind you, but this is perhaps the best metaphor for the MRFF’s action: Replacing an account of the Almighty with an account of the self.
“MRFF commends Mr. Armstead for his decision to do the right thing and honor ALL veterans in the VA medical facilities under his control,” MRFF said in its ball-spiking statement.
“It is much appreciated by the group of veterans represented by MRFF, as it will surely also be by many other veterans who receive care at the other facilities in the Lexington VA Health Care System!”
This isn’t even the first time the MRFF has fought with a VA facility for displaying, on a “Missing Man Table,” the holy book of the dominant faith tradition of the United States.
In 2019, Rodda said in a piece for Daily Kos, they pulled a similar stunt over a Catholic Bible on the table in a facility located in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Now, quick question: What purpose has been served by MRFF getting this Bible removed from the table — or any Bible removed from any table?
A grand total of 12 patients are apparently annoyed that the holy book of over 70 percent of Americans, according to Pew Research, is pictured on a table for missing men. The MRFF intervenes, and they get the Lexington VA to capitulate, essentially telling its patients that “one nation under God” is “one nation under, you know, whatever,” instead.
Do I feel more sympathy for the MRFF? Do I feel welcome? Do I feel like the VA has considered my needs in all of this?
Of course, this is nothing to do with religious freedom (or the freedom from it).
If the problems faced by the freedom of the nonbeliever to nonbelieve while in the Armed Forces are so trivial that the MRFF is fighting a high-profile fight over a table at a facility in Lexington, Kentucky, the organization needn’t exist. So small and non-substantive are the hurdles that the freethinker encounters, apparently, that the folks at the MRFF would be better off spending their time fighting serious religious repression, if and where it exists.
But no: This is the kind of thing that draws attention, silly though it may be. Christians may nominally constitute over 70 percent of Americans, but the MRFF wants you to know who’s really in charge, particularly when it comes to bending the ear of the federal government.
Want spiritual solace? Find it in a journal, vets. That’s the message that’s being sent here. Nice work.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.