Earlier this year, the Manchester VA Medical Center in New Hampshire put up a “Missing Man” table display in the front entrance. These displays are dedicated to prisoners of war or those missing in action, and they’re fairly commonplace at military bases. But this particular display had a Bible on the table, suggesting that POW/MIAs were only Christian, and that atheists and people of other faiths didn’t make the same sacrifices as other soldiers.
After the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s founder Mikey Weinstein alerted the VA to the problem, he was told the Bible would be removed from the display — and it was… temporarily. It was eventually returned in a “locked plexiglass box.”
James Chamberlain, an Air Force veteran who now belongs to the United Church of Christ, soon filed a lawsuit to have the Bible removed. He argued this was a violation of the Establishment Clause. The case is still being decided.
Vice President Mike Pence, however, has a very different version of this story. He’s spreading the lie that President Barack Obama ordered the Bible out of those displays at VA hospitals.
While speaking to the American Legion National Convention [on Wednesday], Pence vowed to “make room for the spiritual needs” of veterans.
“It’s really no surprise,” Pence continued. “Because under the last administration, VA hospitals were removing Bibles and even banning Christmas carols in an effort to be politically correct.”
“But let me be clear,” the vice president added. “Under this administration, VA hospitals will not be religion free zones.”
Pence had a message for those who want to remove Christian symbols: “The Bible stays.”
Plot twist: The policy on religious neutrality at these hospitals actually predates the Obama administration.
Second plot twist: A quick search on Snopes reveals that there were never any unique restrictions against Christianity.
There has never been any restriction against patients exercising their right to practice religion — any religion. Chaplains are free to pray with or offer Bibles to patients who request them, but that’s the only rub: The patients have to ask. Hospital staff can’t enforce a particular religion on anyone, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. And displays meant to honor all veterans can’t insinuate a preference for one particular belief system.
Conclusion: Either Pence is lying or he doesn’t care to check his facts. Same difference. He’s wrong either way.
***Update***: Mikey Weinstein added this in a statement:
Mike Pence is one of the most repulsive and repellent fundamentalist Christian supremacists and bullies on the scene today. As a full fledged member of “The Family” religious cabal (see the recent Netflix documentary and author/Dartmouth professor Jeff Sharlet’s books on this fundamentalist Christian extremist organization), it is hardly surprising that he is lending his ugly bigotry and pervasive prejudice in support of keeping that Christian bible bolted down on that POW/MIA table at the Manchester NH VA Medical center.
(via Raw Story. Portions of this article were published earlier)