From: (name withheld)
Date: June 18, 2021 at 4:26:50 PM MST
I read an article where you folks want a Bible removed from an MIA POW table. Why don’t you people be honest about what you really want? Admit you want God removed from everything. Where is the inclusiveness in that? The MIA POW table should be open to all. You say not all people are Christians but they’re not all atheist either. I don’t see anybody demanding anything of you for your belief. You should just overlooked that Bible as respect for other people’s beliefs. You are the hate mongers and self-righteous hypocrites who can’t be open about your true mission. I think it’s time for you to be tolerant and not worry about that Bible so that those who do believe can exercise their freedom as well. That Bible being there is not denying you anything. You are very intolerant. That’s my opinion.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France
On Jun 18, 2021, at 5:33 PM, Martin France wrote:
(name withheld),I’m a member of the MRFF Advisory Board and, in that capacity, occasionally answer emails such as yours. I’m doing so here…No, Mikey and the MRFF are not hate mongers and self-righteous hypocrites. You clearly do not understand our point.You are correct in that the POW/MIA table should be open to all–and to do that, no single religious text should be placed upon it. It should be open to all in the sense that no one should PRESUME or ASSUME the religious perspective of any POW or MIA personnel. Placing a single text on the table presumes exactly that–that ALL POWs and MIAs are Christian or believe the Bible to be sacred above all other scripture. We know that that is simply not the case for all. We have had Jewish, Atheist, and those of other beliefs serve our country, pay the ultimate price, and be held as POWs–that is undeniable. Let me ask you this: (presuming you are Christian) would you be okay if, just by default, a Koran or the Sutras (Buddhism) or Vedas (Hinduism) were placed on the table–and nothing else? Would you be okay if one of your family members died in service to our country, but then it was just ASSUMED that they were Muslim and they were buried with a Star and Crescent on their tomb?At the MRFF, we know that there is no single religious perspective that has a monopoly on honorable service to our nation. We know that people of ALL backgrounds have done so. So, we also believe that a solemn table like the POW/MIA display shouldn’t be reserved for Christians only. For example, I’m not Christian, nor are my sons who have both honorably served our country. We all tolerate and embrace and honor our Christian brothers and sisters who have served, but they have no higher value than do we. We WORRY about the table exactly because we respect the service of all. We think that the best way to honor all is to not EXCLUDE any, even symbolically. Sure, we could have a table with EVERY book, but that wouldn’t be practical either. Instead, we prefer a table with no book at all–that way we presume nothing. The Bible DOES deny our beliefs. They are as important to us as your Christian beliefs are to you
M France, PhDBrigadier General, USAF (Retired)
Member, MRFF Advisory Board
You have made it quite clear that you have a bone to pick with religion period and the free expression of. As far as being hate mongers and self-righteous Hypocrites I believe I made it clear that was my opinion. Saying that you are and saying that it is my opinion are two different things. I made it clear at the end of my email that it was my opinion. I did that for a reason. You folks insinuated because there was a Bible on there that it was indicating that everyone in the service was being portrayed as a straight white Angela Christian. I see you made an outright accusation of others when it really was simply your opinion. I made a point to share my opinion not to paint everyone the disagrees with me as a certain thing as you posted with your comment. At any rate I feel what you folks are doing is a disservice to the country not a service to the country.
I forgot one other point I wanted to mention. In your accusation that putting a Bible on a table is to imply that everyone that served in the military is straight white Anglican Christian males you show what I feel is a lot of your hidden agenda but you should make public if that’s your agenda. Why did you feel it necessary to bring sexual orientation into it when sexual orientation had absolutely nothing to do with it? There again I think it’s because you folks want to paint people with a broad brush.
Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
On Jun 18, 2021, at 7:47 PM, John Compere wrote:
This will acknowledge receipt of your silly sanctimonious sermonizing concerning a military matter you clearly do not comprehend.For your information, the POW/MIA dinner table display memorial was created in 1967 by the River Rats, a group of American combat pilots from the Vietnam War, as a remembrance for missing comrades & did not include religious scripture. The American Legion continued this tradition without religious scripture. Placing religious scripture on the display is not part of the historical tradition & disrespects the memorial meaning by preempting remembrance & proselytizing religion. Those who do so in military facilities not only distort the display purpose but violate the US Constitution, American law & military regulations prohibiting our government from endorsing a religion. Military chapels are available for religious displays.The purpose of the POW/MIA dinner table display is & has always been a remembrance memorial (i.e. to leave a place at the dinner table for those military members who are prisoners of war or missing in action for when they return and to never forget them). It is not now nor has it ever been to promote religion (i.e. it is about remembrance not religion).
Many military members, including Christians, have objected to this illegality & requested removal of the religious scripture. We proudly & patriotically represent them & will continue to do so
.Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (composed of 85% Christians)
Respone from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
Hi (name withheld),
You’ve made your opinion quite clear. The problem is you’re just wrong. We have nothing against God and we have nothing against you or anyone else believing as you choose. That, you see, is exactly what we support.
Your charge that we are hate-mongers and hypocrites is ignorant and insulting.
Our mission is to protect the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. Some people, like you, for example, don’t seem to understand that ours is a free society wherein people are allowed to believe or not believe, as they choose. Because the Founders of our nation wanted people to have that freedom, they established our nation in such a way as to make it clear there was to be no particular religious belief associated with our government and its functions. Many of the Founders were themselves Christians, but many were not. Deists, Free Thinkers, atheists and other beliefs abounded. So they carefully established the separation of government and religious faith in order to protect everyone’s right to believe as she or he chooses.
You seem to think we are atheists. In fact, over 95% of our staff, supporters and clients are Christians. They’re just not the kind of Christian who thinks everyone else is required to believe as they do.
The original POW/MIA table, unlike the copy you seem so concerned about, did not have a Bible on it out of respect for the many POWs and MIAs who were not Christians, yet who nonetheless put themselves at risk to preserve the freedoms our country offers.
Despite the fact that some Christians seem to think that an artifact of their belief is somehow a universal symbol that applies equally to everyone, that’s simply not the case. And if the book some believer placed on the table in question was the Koran or the Book of Mormon or a tract espousing atheism or the holy scripture of another belief system our response would be exactly the same.
I hope that helps you better understand.
(MRFF Board of Advisors)