Countless military traditions have given strength to our men and women in uniform and their families who support them.
One of these traditions is the “Missing Man” table.
These displays, begun during the Vietnam era, honor those who are classified as “Missing in Action” or “Prisoners of War.” The tables contain a number of symbolic items, including five empty chairs (but only one place setting), a white tablecloth, a red rose in a vase, an inverted glass, a yellow ribbon, salt on a plate, a lemon slice on another plate, a lit candle — and a Bible.
This last item is what is causing some controversy.
In recent months, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has attempted to remove the Bible from these time-honored tables and this time-honored tradition. They are arguing that including Holy Scripture disregards the law.
The foundation is a watchdog and advocacy group founded 11 years ago by Michael Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer. His goal has been to oppose “the spread of alleged religious intimidation by Christians in positions of power within the U.S. military.”
One Air Force Base and three Veterans Affairs facilities have conformed to the wishes of this Military Religious Freedom Foundation — but many are firing back.
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A contingency of military and religious organizations have banded together against the Bible banning. Representatives from the Family Research Council, First Liberty Institute, Center for Military Readiness, Freedom Alliance, Alliance Defending Freedom, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, American Family Association, Freedom X, Judicial Watch, LION Associates, Military-Veterans Advocacy, Liberty Counsel, Stand Up America US, and the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers — these have all written letters on this issue.
They have petitioned Robert McDonald, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to uphold the Bible when it comes to the “Missing Man” tables, Fox News reported.
“The removal of the Bible not only violates the integrity of these displays, but insults those returned POWs who gained daily strength from their faith in the prisons of our enemies,” the letter says. “When a governmental agency such as the VA removes any part of the display, it is a grave insult to the nation’s veterans who often gather together to honor those who have not returned, while also interfering with the message being expressed.”
This coalition against banning the Bible from these tables is not backing down.
“There is definitely an all-out assault on the Christian faith within our military today,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William Boykin, the executive vice president of the Family Research Council. “It’s a sad situation that a guy would actually try to destroy the traditions of our military and the basic values of our country.”
“The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God,” reads the official ceremony script.
On the other side of the argument is Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation
“This is not persecution or victimization of Christianity,” Weinstein told Air Force Times. “This is simply an example where the Air Force should have a policy that makes it absolutely clear that nobody’s religious affiliation is on (exclusive) display.”
The Bible-banning controversy drones on and is shaking up the military — and the ability to honor our highly dedicated POWs.