Concord, N.H. – On May 7th, 2019, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), through one of its courageous military veteran complainants, has filed a Federal lawsuit against the Manchester Department of Veterans Affairs over an unconstitutional Christian bible display at the VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Manchester, New Hampshire. The suit filing was marked by a fly-over message at the VA Hospital in Manchester in protest of the Constitutional violation.
The controversy draws on church-state separation in the U.S. military - guaranteed in the American Constitution, as “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 L. “Mikey" Weinstein, Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).
The object at the center of this dispute is a sectarian Christian bible, formerly owned by a 95-year-old veteran and POW, and donated by a third party to the VA Medical center. An ecumenical group of 15 VAMC patients (2/3s of them practicing Christians) contacted the MRFF requesting its civil rights advocacy representation after feeling misrepresented, marginalized and ostracized by that Christian bible being prominently displayed in the entry lobby of the Manchester, NH VAMC on a POW/MIA Table. After an initial email exchange dating back to January 2019, VAMC agreed to remove the Christian bible per MRFF’s demands only hours after receiving and officially acknowledging them. The Christian bible was then promptly removed as promised by the VAMC.
However, the VA Medical Center dishonorably failed to keep its written promise to MRFF to permanently remove the object, as the Christian bible has since been placed inside a sealed, transparent glass display box which is actually bolted to the POW/MIA Table. This prompted the MRFF to take legal action to guarantee church-state separation in this Federal facility thereby respecting and ensuring the Constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedom of all veterans.
This ground-breaking Federal lawsuit, which technically has one of MRFF’s 15 complainants - a devout practicing Christian - as the named plaintiff, is being filed just as the United States Supreme Court is deciding a similar disputeinvolving a 40-foot-tall cross monument in Bladensburg, Maryland being maintained by the State of Maryland designed to memorialize 49 local residents who died fighting in World War One. The Supreme Court’s ruling on this matter may decide the legal limits of some of these public spaces where church meets State.