Air Force Replaces POW Bible with “Book of Faith”
Last Thursday Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF trumpeted his influence in getting a VA clinic to remove a Bible and Bible verse from a POW/MIA table. The story was essentially ignored until FoxNews’ Todd Starnes reported on it yesterday [emphasis added]:
A Bible and Bible verse were removed from a POW/MIA display inside an Ohio Veteran’s Administration clinic after the notorious Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained.
The religious artifacts were part of a “Missing Man Table” recently erected by volunteers at an outpatient clinic in Akron.
Weinstein called the presence of Bible a “violation of the US Constitution.” While the VA didn’t necessarily agree, in an ill-fated attempt to avoid offending someone, they kowtowed.
Starnes accurately reported that official military and government sources supported the inclusion of the Bible, meaning the VA would have been on firm footing had it resisted Weinstein’s demands:
“The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God,” the Navy ceremony text reads.
ChristianFighterPilot.com noted in 2014 that official Air Force guidance also included an “optional” Bible as part of the POW/MIA Remembrance display [emphasis added]:
A round table, a white table cloth, six chairs, Bible (optional), red rose displayed in vase, yellow ribbon, slice of lemon on a bread plate with a pinch of salt, place setting at an open table, and (6) wine glasses.
Turns out, though, the Air Force recently changed the rules.
With apparently little fanfare, the US Air Force republished AFPAM 34-1202 Guide to Protocol (PDF) with “Change 1,” dated just last January 2015. Changes within the document include a few ceremonial protocols…and the removal of the Bible from POW/MIA ceremonies.
This is the “new” Air Force guidance on POW/MIA tables (PDF) [emphasis added]:
A round table, a white table cloth, six chairs, book of faith (optional), red rose displayed in vase, red ribbon, slice of lemon on a bread plate with a pinch of salt, place setting at an open table, and (6) wine glasses.
In the original version, the protocol described “our country” being founded “under God,” which you’ll note is the same text Starnes quoted in the Navy citation above (PDF):
(Optional) The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.
But not anymore:
(Optional) The bound text is a book of faith to represent the strength gained through devotion to sustain those lost from our country.
The Bible has become a “bound text.”
Of course, the Bible is a “book of faith,” which means Air Force POW/MIA ceremonies can still include a Bible. Technically. Given the increasing hypersensitivity to religious liberty — as well as the Air Force cultural view about regulations (if it doesn’t say you can, you can’t) — Airmen are far more likely to write “book of faith” on a steno notepad and stick it on the table than include a Bible. More likely, seeing “optional” as a way to avoid any controversy, they’ll simply not include it at all.
Ironically, in 2013 a POW/MIA Bible withstood both an IG and EO complaint, but by 2015 it had fallen to simple political expediency.
These changes actually occurred nearly a year ago, though few have noticed. Surprisingly, Mikey Weinstein didn’t take credit for the change. There were multiple incidents in mid to late 2014, just prior to this rule revision, in which POW/MIA tables were attacked over Bibles — including one in which Mikey Weinstein said the inclusion of the Bible was a “loathsome message” and “disgustingly bigoted.”
The inclusion of the Bible in POW/MIA remembrance ceremonies was inspired by comments from former Prisoners of War who repeatedly cited their faith and God as crucial to their sanity and survival.
These are the same men who cited the Code of Conduct as important to their return with honor — a Code that is prescribed by presidential Executive Order and concludes with
I will trust in my God, and in the United States of America.
How long before “my God” becomes “my source of existential reasoning” or some such nonsense?
Unfortunately, more of these men are passing away each year, and their legacy of faith and resilience may pass with them.
Do you think these former POWs would have an opinion on the US military or VA banning a Bible from a POW display…at Mikey Weinstein’s insistence?