A religious-freedom advocacy group has again engaged with the military over the use of a Bible with a prisoner-of-war "missing man table" display, this time during a May 13 Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association ball in South Korea.
About 350 guests attended the ball, put on by the group's Morning Calm chapter, and another 40 or so soldiers were on duty at the event, an 8th Army soldier who was in attendance told Army Times.
That soldier, who spoke anonymously out of fear of reprisal, said that during the toast portion of the event, soldiers stationed throughout the crowd brought forward items used to construct the missing man table, a display crafted to honor the memories of POWs and service members missing in action.
As the soldiers came forward, they briefly spoke about their item's significance, the anonymous soldier said. The last of the items brought forward was a Bible.
The soldier who brought it forward talked about "strength through faith, and reminding us that we were founded as one nation under God," the attendee said. "And I'm sitting there going like, 'No, we weren't. We're a secular nation.' If more people knew that, they'd probably object just like I do."
The attendee said he was "completely flabbergasted" by the ceremony and notified the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group that has successfully lobbied for the removal of Bibles from missing-man displays at Army, Air Force and Veterans Affairs Department facilities in recent months.
"As a Secular Humanist Atheist, there is no way that I felt part of the team after this transgression," the soldier wrote in an email to Mikey Weinstein, a former Air Force officer and the MRFF's founder. "Placing the Christian label on all uniformed personnel is a gross violation of religious freedom, and a warning shot to "fit in, or be ostracized."
The soldier later provided a photo of the table, which was sent by MRFF to Army Times.
"MRFF is demanding that those responsible for these deliberate and despicable violations of bedrock Constitutional law and DoD regulatory provisions be aggressively investigated and appropriately and visibly punished so as to prevent future actions of similar serious law-breaking," Weinstein wrote in an email to Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, head of 8th Army.
Eighth Army public affairs personnel did not immediately answer questions regarding the ball.
Asked about possibly filing an anonymous complaint, he said, "The funny thing about anonymity in the military is that there is none."