Eighth Army is looking into a presentation featuring a Bible during an Adjutant General Corps ball in Seoul after an anonymous complaint to a military-religious freedom group about the event.
No official complaints were filed regarding the POW/MIA "missing man table" ceremony, 8th Army spokesman Col. David Patterson told Army Times via email, but the unit "takes any allegation of this nature seriously and will review the facts of this situation."
At issue: A portion of the May 13 ball put on by the Morning Calm chapter of the Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association, during which a uniformed soldier presented the Bible as part of the table's assembly and spoke of its importance. The presentation, also known as a fallen comrade table ceremony, includes a script that explains "the Bible, placed on the table, represents the strength gained through faith to find peace and sustain those lost and missing."
"I was completely taken aback by this," an 8th Army soldier and client of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation wrote in an email to the MRFF's founder, Mikey Weinstein. "In front of every guest in attendance, the host and organizer of the AG Ball just declared that every POW and MIA person was a Christian."
Weinstein wrote to 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal demanding immediate action, calling the actions "deliberate and despicable violations of bedrock Constitutional law" involving religious expression and seeking "immediate corrective actions."
The email, a copy of which was provided to Army Times by Weinstein, went out May 19. The unit's inspector general reached out to Weinstein on May 20, according to documents provided by the MRFF head, a former Air Force officer.
The ball was not a command-sponsored event or an "official unit function," Patterson said in the email, and all soldiers who attended, planned or participated in the event did so voluntarily.
"Anybody who showed up knew that it was an official military function," he said. "Yes, they're voluntary, but they're military."
About 250 soldiers and guests attended the event at a Seoul hotel, Patterson said, with funds for the event coming from ticket sales and donations.
The MRFF has argued successfully against the inclusion of Bibles in displays stateside on military and federal installations. They have been removed from missing man tables in Veterans Affairs Department facilities and military bases in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania in recent months, despite calls from some lawmakers to reconsider the actions.