In Less Than Two Months, MRFF Action Leads to Removal of Unconstitutional Sectarian Religious Text from POW/MIA ‘Missing Man Tables’ Located at Five (5) Federal Facilities

On February 22, 2016, 11 clients contacted MRFF regarding the display of overtly religious text in conjunction with a traditional POW/MIA ‘Missing Man’ memorial display at Akron, OH Veterans Administration Clinic.  These clients pointed out the extremely inappropriate and illicit nature of recognition for one religious sect of a memorialized group that is made up of individuals representing many religious faiths, and none at all.  After contacting the VA clinic administration on behalf of our clients, MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein was informed by the Akron VA Clinic Administrator on February 25, 2016 that the religious texts had been removed from the memorial display at the clinic.

MRFF submitted a similar demand regarding the POW/MIA memorial display to the director of the Youngstown, OH Veterans Administration Clinic on March 16, 2016 on behalf of 7 clients at that facility.  On April 4, 2016, immediately after a MRFF client demanded the right to place copies of the Torah and Richard Dawkins ‘The God Delusion’ on the memorial display along with the Bible, the Chief of External Affairs at the Youngstown VA Clinic confirmed that the bible had been removed from the POW/MIA memorial table.

After being contacted on April 8, 2016 by Mikey (on behalf of 31 clients) regarding another POW/MIA memorial display that included a bible located at Wright-Paterson Air Force Base, the Director of WPAFB Public Affairs confirmed via email that the bible had been removed.

On Monday, April 11, 2016, and on behalf of 35 clients, Mikey/MRFF commended the administration of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston for its own decision to remove the Christian bible from its POW/MIA “Missing Man” Memorial without a direct demand to do so from MRFF.

On April 18, 2016, MRFF sent a letter to the commanding officer of the Tobyhanna Army Depot located near Scranton, PA demanding the removal of another bible display on the POW/MIA memorial table located in the depot’s main administrative facility.  Of particular note was the bible used in this instance which displayed a giant military radar system illustration (no doubt meant to convey the main military mission of Tobyhanna as a DoD Logistics Center specializing in Communications-Electronics Systems) as well as the actual words “Tobyhanna Army Depot” in clearly discernible lettering at the bottom of the bible’s cover.  This, in effect, created a double violation of constitutional provisions of religious establishment and separation that was the basis of MRFF’s demand on behalf of 115 clients (86 of whom are Christian) who sought assistance in this matter.  Leadership at Tobyhanna Army Depot responded by immediately removing the illicit religious text and “apologized” for the branding of the bible in question by claiming that a third-party, private organization (The Veterans Council) was responsible.  This unconvincing apology led Mikey, on behalf of MRFF’s clients, to issue the following statement regarding particular case of sectarian Christian supremacy on display:

At the very least, the glaring Constitutional blind-spots of base leaders towards these exhibitionist displays of sectarian Christian supremacy constitute violations of service members’ basic civil rights. However, we also have a right to wonder if this case of purportedly Christian conceit is now, within the pressure-cooker of widespread public scrutiny, transforming into a case of Christian deceit.

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