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Activists Add Wiccan, Muslim Texts To Bible Display At NH VA Medical Center; Items Officially Removed

May 17, 2019

Activists with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) entered the NH Veterans Association Medical Center in Manchester, NH on Thursday and placed copies of the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and Wiccan and atheist texts on a table displaying a Christian Bible that’s kept in a locked glass case, the Union Leader reports. 

The table display, which has been up for several months, is sponsored by the Northeast POW/MIA Network, a group founded and organized to address the fact of missing and captive American military service personnel whose whereabouts remain unknown.

According to a February press release issued by the VA’s public affairs office, the Bible in the “Missing Man’s Table” is one of many symbolic elements comprising the display and was donated by a former American POW who survived imprisonment in Germany during World War II.

“The Bible, donated by Former U.S. Army Air Corps Tech. Sgt. Herman ‘Herk’ Streitburger of Bedford, New Hampshire, was one of the few personal items he had while he was held in captivity in a German Prisoner of War Camp. It represents the strength gained through faith, to sustain us and those lost from our country,” the release said.

The issue for the MRFF, which describes itself as a guardian of religious liberty in the US military and which has also filed a lawsuit in US District Court over the display, is that the public display of the Bible in a federal building violates laws protecting the separation of church and state and amounts to an establishment of religion.

“The Christian Bible clearly doesn’t represent all of the myriad religious faiths and non-faith traditions of the U.S. armed forces veterans using the Medical Center and to presume that it does is quite blatantly unconstitutional, unethical and illicit,” said Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, founder of MRFF in a statement published widely.

In response to the placement of the non- and even anti-Christian materials on the Northeast POW/MIA Network’s display, the VA said the items will be removed and will not be replaced.

“We will not tolerate interference with and/or alteration of approved displays — such as this Northeast POW/MIA Network-sponsored POW/MIA table — and as a result these items will be removed,” Curt Cashour, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said to the Union Leader.

Other elements of the display, which depicts a round dinner table covered with a white cloth and surrounded by empty chairs, include an upturned wine glass symbolizing that POWs and MIAs can no longer offer a toast, as well as the following as described by the VA’s public affairs office

“The single red rose reminds us of the lives of these Americans….and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers.   

The yellow ribbon symbolizes our continuing uncertainty, the hope for their return, and our determination to account for them.   

A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate, captured and missing in a foreign land.   

A shaker of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families – who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.   

The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return – alive or dead.”

The NH-based POW/MIA group also has held a weekly vigil for POW/MIA in Meredith, NH every Thursday night, without exception, since 1989, and is believed to be the longest-running vigil in the United States.

 

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