AKRON, OH – Constitutional advocacy group the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) chalked up another victory on Thursday, February 25, 2016 with the swift removal of a Christian bible and related sectarian references from a POW/MIA religious display at a Veterans Administration Clinic in Akron, Ohio. The civil rights group, which is the only non-profit charity solely devoted to protecting service members of all faiths and no faith from unconstitutional religious oppression and illicit proselytizing within the U.S. Armed Forces, intervened after being contacted by 11 military veteran patients of the clinic, 7 of whom are active practitioners of the Christian faith. The removal was set in motion after a retired U.S. military soldier notified MRFF's Founder and President Mikey Weinstein of the problem. Within 72 hours of MRFF's initial contact with the distressed veteran-clients, the problem was quickly and resolutely corrected by the VA clinic's senior administration.
In a message to MRFF, a retired U.S. military soldier notified the foundation of an Akron Specialty Outpatient Clinic's POW/MIA memorial display that prominently featured a Christian New Testament Bible as well as a framed message that attempted to justify and describe why that New Testament Bible was a necessary part of the POW/MIA memorial display. The aggrieved retired soldier, representing the other 10 MRFF veteran clients, noted that as a disabled war veteran who suffered several combat-related injuries in the course of multiple deployments, he is certain that the religious (and non-religious) makeup of POW/MIAs is far more diverse than the exclusively Christian identity conveyed by the display.
"Obviously Military Installations and VA's cannot reasonably accommodate every religion, so why even go there? Who gets to decide that only Christian POW/MIA's are deserving of recognition and honors? Did I miss out on the memo that America was a theocracy and we are all supposed to be worshipping Jesus Christ?"
The retired soldier continued, expressing his frustration: "How do we go about getting my local VA to stand for all and not portray a false demographic of our heroes?" Noting his multiple tours of duty and numerous surgeries resulting from combat injuries, the retired soldier noted that these sacrifices were "for ALL Americans, [yet] it seems the vast majority of Christians want to make everything about them."
Upon receiving this impassioned MRFF client testimonial, Mikey Weinstein, immediately contacted the executive administration of the Akron clinic. Following this initial phone call with Weinstein, the Clinic's Administrator emailed MRFF less than 72 hours later, thanking the civil rights group and notifying it that the Bible and the offending framed display had been removed from the POW/MIA memorial display.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation warmly greeted this news from the Akron Veterans Administration facility, noting that this was a victory first and foremost for the U.S. Constitution.
Weinstein stated, "the timely and welcomed remedial actions of this VA Clinic's Administrator should serve as a template for all other leaders in the DoD and VA as to how to achieve their missions while staying compliant with the church-state separation mandates of the United States Constitution. MRFF's veteran client soldiers, and we at MRFF as well, applaud this VA Clinic Administrator's sage wisdom and courage in recognizing that the U.S. military is comprised of hundreds if not thousands of diverse faiths as well as no faiths. We heartily commend his taking decisive and swift action to remedy the situation so that the MIA/POW table truly honors all."
MRFF, which was founded in 2005, has a current client base of over 45,000 servicemembers, veterans, and DoD civilian personnel, 96% of whom identify as Christian.