Principle of adhering to desires of few

Why are some people uncomfortable to see a Christian bible on POW table? Should the fact that some people are uncomfortable about what is or is not in POW table be a sufficient reason for the organization displaying POW table to adjust its contents to their desire? What other situations, including non-religious, can you see if this same principle is applied to them? For example, if a group doesn’t feel comfortable with seeing Dodge or Nissan cars in their county or city, is it dumb or morally right to enforce their desire to see none of those cars? I hope MRFF does say it is dumb. If it answers the latter, that it is morally right to enforce it, the public has eyes to see, if they got brains left after being “empty selves”, how far into tunnel vision MRFF has gotten itself into. If, on the other hand, MRFF answers that it is not about religious freedom and, therefore, will not comment on my question, the public sees through MRFF’s thin veil of excuse and refusal to admit its own weaknesses.

(name withheld)


Dear (name withheld),

Here is the true meaning under our Constitution of your subject line “Principle of adhering to desires of few:”


Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in the SCOTUS case McCreary v. ACLU on the Ten Commandments “It is true that many Americans find the Commandments in accord with their personal beliefs. But we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”


In other words, the majority doesn’t rule over the minority where First Amendment rights are concerned.


She also said “The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions, which may interfere with the independence of the institutions, give the institutions access to government or governmental powers not fully shared by nonadherents of the religion, and foster the creation of political constituencies defined along religious lines. The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. Disapproval sends the opposite message.”


Her statement is based on past SCOTUS Establishment Clause rulings:


Jefferson’s concept of “separation of church and state” first became a part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878). In that case, the court examined the history of religious liberty in the US, determining that while the constitution guarantees religious freedom, “The word ‘religion’ is not defined in the Constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted.” The court found that the leaders in advocating and formulating the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty were James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Quoting the “separation” paragraph from Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, the court concluded that, “coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.


In 1878 “separation of church and state” became part of the Establishment Clause by law.


The Supreme Court heard the Lemon v. Kurtzmacase in 1971 and ruled in favor of the Establishment ClauseSubsequent to this decision, the Supreme Court has applied a three-pronged test to determine whether government action comports with the Establishment Clause, known as the Lemon Test:


Government action violates the Establishment Clause unless it:
1. has a significant secular (i.e., non-religious) purpose,
2. does not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion
3. does not foster excessive entanglement between government and religion


Parker v. Levy:

“This Court has long recognized that the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society… While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. … The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it… Speech [in any form] that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command.  If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected.” (Emphasis added) Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733, 1974


One of the reasons that were taken into consideration was that the bible was never included in the original POW/MIA table.

Col. John M. Devillier is the installation commander and his spokesman paraphrased AFI (Air Force Instruction) 1-1, Sections 2.11.and 2.12:

“Our leaders and personnel are encouraged to accommodate the free exercise of religion and other personal beliefs, including freedom of expression unless it has an adverse impact on mission accomplishment,” he wrote. “Air Force leaders must carefully balance constitutional protections of individuals’ free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs with the constitutional separation of church and state. They must ensure their actions cannot reasonably be construed to officially endorse, disapprove of, or extend preferential treatment to any faith or absence of faith.”


The bible on the table violates AFI 1-1, sections 2.11 and 2.12, the Constitution, Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878), Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy.


Plus, the Christian bible on the table does not represent all of the POW/MIA’s.


According to Thomas Jefferson our laws protect the freedom of all religions and those of no religious belief in America:


“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom


“Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and & Gov’t in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

James Madison Detached Memoranda, circa 1820


We are neither an atheist organization nor are we anti-Christian. Mikey is Jewish (and prays to the same Father we do 3 times a day) and 88% of the Board, Advisory Board, volunteers and supporters (300 in total) of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are Christians. In fact, 96% of our 45,500+ soldier clients (1 can represent many) are Christians – Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodist, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals, etc. We fight for the rights of these Christians more than any other religion but it never makes the news.


We ONLY step in  when a soldier or soldiers complain to us of the trampling of the Constitution, Supreme Court rulings and military laws, when their chain of command ignores them.


We rely on the following distinguished military personnel for their expertise on religious neutrality rules and regulations in the military:


Board Member

Major William E. Barker (Marines)


Advisory Board Members

John M. Compere (Judge and Brigadier General (Retired Army)

Chaplain Col. Quentin D. Collins (Retired Air Force and Army)

Edie Disler – PhD, Lt Col (Retired Air Force)

Robert S. Dotson (Retired Brigadier General)

Robert T. Herres (Retired Air Force and past Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Eagle Man, Ed McGaa (Retied Marine Corps fighter pilot)

Reverend MeLinda Morton (Chaplain)

George Reed (Retired MP and past Director of Command and Leadership Studies at the U.S. Army War College for 6 years

A.A. “Tony” Verrengia (Retired Air Force Brigadier General and Master Navigator)

Lawrence Wilkerson (Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff (2002-05).


As a Christian, I am amazed that Christians and others writing on this subject have purposely left out the laws (which they have been told repeatedly) against any government entity’s entanglement with religion in order to foster the hate and death threats Mikey receives on a daily basis – from CHRISTIANS!


God will not be mocked by their lies, distortions and omissions and they will be held accountable:


“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37


Pastor Joan

MRFF Advisory Board Member


Hi (name withheld),

You miss the point. No one is uncomfortable with the Bible. The problem is that the Bible does not represent the beliefs of all those who are being honored by the POW/MIA table, and its placement there, at a government-sponsored and approved display, appears to suggest it does. By displaying only one religious artifact, in this instance the Bible, the government is put in the position of promoting, or appearing to promote, one belief over the others, which is a violation of the necessary separation of church and state.

Your desire to compare this situation to the others you’ve listed entirely misreads what is at issue. The separation of church and state, long held in American law, only applies to church, religion or belief, and the state, our government. Cars, cities or counties are irrelevant to the discussion, as is discomfort. It’s a matter of law and it relates to one of the fundamental protections offered Americans – all Americans of all beliefs, including non-belief – by our Constitution.

So your carefully articulated argument is based on a misunderstanding of what is at issue. If fact, there is no need for any religious artifact in the display.

I hope this helps.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Why do some people view the presence of Bible as an endorsement of government in favor of one specific belief? Doesn’t its absence endorse atheism? And if atheism also is a religion, government is still endorsing one belief over others. How do you reply?
Also, let me clarify. Cars were just an example and, by themselves, they are not relevant, but I said the principle was at issue. As long as some complain about something, must an organization break from its past routine to accommodate their demand? If yes, when some Americans demand that all Christian crosses, churches, meetings, clothes, and books that are associated with Christianity be removed from all 50 states except in Ohio and Kansas, should government accommodate their desire? No, right? What if there were no first amendment? What if we are living in Saudi Arabia where only Islam can be practiced and preached? Would you then admit that protecting Christians living in Saudi Arabia is not worth your time?
(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),
The separation of church and state is a policy established from the beginning to this country that is intended to preserve and protect the right of all people to the free choice of what to believe and/or not believe in the world of spirituality. The presence of a Bible on a government-related display suggests that it is a source of spiritual comfort for all involved – in this case POWs and MIAs. That is an abrogation of the separation of church and state because it suggests the government is endorsing the notion that all are Christians. They are not.

How much more clear must we be?

Of course its absence does not endorse atheism. What a silly question. Does the absence of a Bible in a museum suggest atheism? Where is the requirement that a religious artifact of any type be present in a government-sponsored display? How about a book of poetry? Or perhaps a copy of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution?

Atheism is a religion, you say? I don’t think so.

Your examples, the first of which you recognize is irrelevant, are all either irrelevant or silly. No one is suggesting taking Christian paraphernalia out of churches. No one is suggesting doing away with any religion. The military is a government organization. What is being said is simply that a government-related display or act, in order to protect the freedom of religion that we all cherish, may not promote or appear to promote one religious belief over the others.

No one here objects to people having their own beliefs, their own churches, temples, mosques or other religious gathering places. No one objects to having religious services in the proper places, at the proper times and in the proper manner. But in order to fully and carefully protect the freedom of religion – or for that matter non-religion – the government may not casually place a Christian artifact, or an artifact of any other religion, in a place that suggests it speaks for and represents all.

What does living in Saudi Arabia have to do with anything? The arguments that you and others who seem to see a plot to destroy Christianity under every bed want to put forward are preposterous. No one here intends harm to Christianity. But everyone associated with the MRFF, most of whom, by the way, are Christians, believe it urgently important that the right of free choice of religious or non-religious belief be protected by ensuring that our government is not put in the position of promoting OR APPEARING TO PROMOTE one belief system over the others.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Why does your reply have to be so much longer than my comment?

(name withheld)


Hello again, (name withheld) –
I just responded to a different note from you — thought I’d give this one a go, as well.
A few things to clear up from your note. First, no one has suggested that the Christian Bible should be removed because it makes them “uncomfortable”.  We’ve called for it’s removal from the POW/MIA display because the inclusion of any religious text in a display within a US government building is inappropriate.  And aside from being unconstitutional, on a much more personal level it is disrespectful of the beliefs of the many POW/MIA heroes who are not (or were not) Christian. If the purpose of the display is to honor the sacrifice of the entire POW/MIA community, why only highlight the personal religious beliefs of a portion of that group? Actually, I know the answer to that question — it is because there are some people who believe that Christianity is entitled to such a place of prominence. Unfortunately for those misguided people, the US Constitution says that it is not entitled to that sort of preferential treatment.
As for your question about Dodges and Nissans — I went back to double-check, and I can confirm that the US Constitution says nothing about the rights of Americans to any particular brand of automobile.  So you are correct, I think that is a really dumb thing to suggest.
However, the Constitution does say important things about the religious rights of Americans, and about important limits on the government with respect to the establishment of religious, and about the inappropriateness of a “religous test” for any office or public trust.  So when it comes to the display of a religious or message in a government setting, there is much to say indeed.
So there you have it, you’ve received at least one (and perhaps more) “comment on your question.”  Let me know if you have any more.
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

What?! You had to double-check the constitution if it says anything about brand of automobile?! They didn’t even have a car, did they?
Where in constitution does it say that there should not be a bible in POW table?
Did founders of constitution have and allow bible displayed prominently in government buildings?
Thank you for different, nicer tone.
(name withheld)

Hi (name withheld) –

Yeah, that “double check” comment was my weak attempt at humor. I got a million of ’em…. can’t say they’re good, though.

But to your question about what the Constitution says or doesn’t say about POWMIA tables, obviously it doesn’t provide specific instructions. However, that doesn’t mean that the Constitution shouldn’t be applied to the situation; in fact, quite the opposite. The Constitution was written in such a way, and has been interpreted over that past 100+ years, such that is applicable to a wide variety of situations.
The core issue with the POW/MIA tables is whether the presence of any religious book in an officially VA-approved display can be reasonably construed as a tacit endorsement of one particular sectarian religious belief. My belief, and the position of the MRFF, is that it does. So we are not objecting to the Christian Bible itself, or to Christianity generally. We would voice the exact same objection to the apparent endorsement of any sectarian religious belief (including non-belief).
As I mentioned in my last note, for me as both Christian and veteran, the POW/MIA remembrance is very important. I would never want the non-Christian POW/MIA or their families to conclude that their service and sacrifice is less valued than that of Christian POW/MIA. For that reason, I think this sort of display is not the appropriate time, place, or manner for the expression of a sectarian religious belief.
Thanks for the dialogue.
Peace, Mike

















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  1. Tom O

    “Why are some people uncomfortable to see a Christian bible on POW table?”
    Because that Bible was prominently displayed in a government facility, on a table meant to honor ALL POW/MIA’s regardless of their religion or lack of one. The Bible in that setting sends an unmistakable message that Christian POW/MIA’s are more important than non-Christian POW/MIA’s, and that the US government favors Christianity over other religions.
    “Should the fact that some people are uncomfortable about what is or is not in POW table be a sufficient reason for the organization displaying POW table to adjust its contents to their desire?”
    No, the reason is contained in the letter from Tobyhanna’s Public Affairs Officer at
    which includes ” the bible was immediately removed in compliance with the 1997 Federal Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace.”

  2. Joe Odom

    Dear “name withheld”

    As generations differ, so do the various views of certain brands of religion. We could talk all day about the christian bible being on the table, how that perhaps if we included a Qur’an and few other representative items… oh, that quickly devolves into an argument. Scratch that.

    Ultimately, it is about the law and the Constitution we swore to uphold. I have seen my share of “just go along with it – it is harmless” attitudes, but no, it is NOT right, it is NOT in accordance to our Constitution.

    It is your right to believe as you desire and that right is guaranteed by the Constitution. But try to think wayyy back to high school Civics (I shudder the continue, realizing all over the US the following has been lost in classes) … for every “right” there is concomitant “responsibility” to not step on the rights of others!

    Remember at all times the United States of America is NOT a democracy! ((Shock!!))

    Look it up.

    Have a wonderful day,

    Joe – in sunny central Florida

  3. Huh?

    Listen to Sandra’s own words cited in the reply. MRFF’s excessive involvement in eliminating any Christian symbol or activity from military is a fine example of what she wrote. Disapproval sends the message that the adherents of Christianity among the US military are outsiders and that the military members who don’t adhere to Christianity are the favored group of political community. Well cited, indeed.

  4. ss

    ‘In 1878 “separation of church and state” became part of the Establishment Clause by law.’ If year 1878 refers to the Supreme Court case cited in its previous sentence, here is a question to the reply author: Since when does SC make laws? Answer: Never has the Constitution authorized or delegated law making to SC. Congress makes law. Hello?

  5. Tom O

    An accurate re-wording of the 2nd sentence of Huh?’s comment is: The bible on the POW/MIA table sends the message that non-adherents of Christianity among the US military are outsiders and that the military members who adhere to Christianity are the favored group.
    MRFF is not in favor of “eliminating any Christian symbol or activity from military.” You theocrats don’t want to see the difference between eliminating from the military favoritism toward, and support of, ANY religion.
    The reason that almost all MRFF’s activities are directed against Christian symbols and activities is simple: in this country, the ONLY religious groups that try to use the government to advance THEIR religious beliefs are fundamentalist bible-thumpers. That’s why so many of the people who go to MRFF for help are Christians themselves: they don’t want the public image of Christianity associated with the “my religion is totally superior to yours, so I can push it at you any way I want to” attitude.

  6. Ioan Lightoller

    WHAT is this penchant of the far right to make everything a “numbers game”? There is supposed to be a separation of church and state and that is it. There is to be NO promotion of any religion–Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, whatever. NO PROMOTION OF ANY KIND OF RELIGION.

    But I don’t believe these people are Christians, so much as they are Dominionists (for anyone who is new to the topic, google “Dominionism” and “Seven Mountains Theology”). This is very dangerous as these individuals want to make this country a theocracy, something that needs to be fought by ALL right-thinking Americans.

    I don’t want something like a Bible on a POW table. I also don’t want to see a Torah, a Qur’an, or a Bhagavad-Gita, a Book of Shadows, or any other holy book. If they want to put out something that means something to ALL Americans, let it be a copy of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. The former would be the most appropriate since that is what all military personnel are protecting.

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