The founding of our Republic begins with the story of a group of people who sought to leave to freely practice their religion. The persecution that they experienced was so bad that they preferred to face the harsh wilderness, so they could have the freedom to worship as they chose. As evidenced by the First Amendment, this fact was never far from the front of our Founding Fathers’ minds.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The Founders thought that some rights were so important that they chose to enshrine them in the Bill of Rights, and chief among them were Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, the right to peaceably assemble (protest). But as important as those rights are to Americans, then and now, the Framers put Freedom of Religion ahead of everything else. They never forgot that it was a quest for religious liberty that is at the very heart of this nation.
In the years since our Republic’s creation, our government and our military have established ceremonies and traditions, many of which use symbolism to represent values, principles, and the people. Given that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs, it’s not surprising that Christian symbols made their way into many of these traditions. The Cross, open prayer in the name of Jesus, and quoting the Bible are not unusual practices during many of these ceremonies and traditions.
One such tradition is the “Missing Man Table” at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. According to the National League of POW/MIA Families the “Missing Man Table” is a memorial honoring soldiers who are absent from a dining hall because they are prisoners of war or missing in action.
As reported by Life Site News,
“Every element serves a symbolic purpose, from the table’s round shape symbolizing ‘everlasting concern’ to a Bible representing ‘strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.”
To many of us, this would be a thoughtful, meaningful way to honor and to remember those who chose to serve the nation and have not come home. Many of us would respect the symbolism and understand that it’s not about us, it’s about those listed as POW or MIA and their families desperately hoping that someday they may return.
However, in our current age, there will always be someone who wants to make everything about them and how they feel. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) claimed that 31 active-duty airmen of varying faiths and denominations stationed at F.E. Warren contacted them in May to oppose the Bible being part of the dining hall’s “Missing Man Table.” The number of objectors rose to 36 by the end of June. After an investigation of the complaint, Col. Stacy Jo Huser announced that a generic “book of faith” will replace the Bible.
“Our chaplains are purchasing a generic ‘book of faith’ and will let me know when that book is expected to arrive,” Huser told MRFF. “Until it arrives, I’ve asked them to rotate the book placed on the table (rotate it through various faiths)”. Huser also said that this generic book will have “spiritual writings and prayers from the five DoD Chaplain-appointed faith groups and a sixth set of blank pages to represent those who find solace by other means.”
A generic book of faith? Solace by other means? What Col. Huser calls a generic book of faith I call a book of no faith at all. A book filled with “spiritual writings” from five faith groups recognized by the DoD Chaplain is a book of spiritual philosophy, not faith. By sharing small parts of these various writings, you are left as fulfilled as reading the blank pages that are to be included. This generic book is exactly that, plain, bland, and devoid of what makes any religious text from any faith worth reading, the power of the word.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation claims that their mission is “to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
After reading articles at the website (https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/), seeing what they call victories, even their use of the phrase “Establishment Clause” I tend to believe that they are more like the Freedom From Religion Foundation than a group dedicated to protecting religious liberties for anyone. Their goal appears to be the eradication of Christianity within the Armed Services in the name of “protecting” people of other faiths. If the MRFF was truly on the mission they claim, then they would have the same obligation to protect the Christians to the same degree as any other faith and, not dismiss them in favor of others.
Forget for the moment that the “Establishment Clause” doesn’t mean what leftist politicians and activist judges have twisted it to mean. Forget that an outside Foundation has put undue pressure on military command officers in a P.R. fashion. Let’s give the MRFF and Col. Huser the benefit of the doubt and say that they only have the best intentions, which they very well may have. (Although we know where the road paved with good intentions leads to don’t we?) This still comes down to one simple thing. It’s not about the people on base.
The “Missing Man Table” is about those who are currently classified as POW/MIA. This is a memorial established with the aid of the National League of POW/MIA Families and has been in place for far longer than any of the current airman at F.E. Warren have been stationed there. The Bible was chosen for a reason and it wasn’t to establish a religion for the base, it was to express faith, which the true meaning of the “Establishment Clause” protects. (Remember the part that says, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?”)
The people who created this memorial have the right to use the Bible as their symbol of faith. And if this is offensive to fewer than 40 members of a staff that numbers over 3,000 then that is unfortunate, but they are not being forced to practice or participate in a faith other than their own so their rights to religious liberty are not being infringed. There delicate sensibilities do not entitle them to infringe upon the rights of others. If it bothers them that much, they don’t need to look at it. They can stay as far from it as possible. Keep in mind that nowhere in the Constitution is there a clause to protect your feelings. Besides, the proper application of Freedom of Speech pretty much guarantees that you will be offended at some point, so suck it up buttercup. You’re in the Air Force for crying out loud, someday it might be you who is POW/MIA. On THAT day, then it will be about you.
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