A group that advocates for the separation of church and state is claiming a victory after it was announced that the Department of Defense is removing military edition Bibles from its exchange stores. A chaplain alliance group is asking Congress to investigate whether the action taken was religious discrimination.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) said that the Holman Christian Standard Bibles editions "prominently emblazoned with exact replicas of the trademarked emblems of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force" could be seen as the official religious text of the four branches.
"Once again our foundation has decisively beaten back those who would see the wall separating church and state reduced to rubble," said Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of MRFF. "The very fact that the Pentagon – or 'Pentacostal-gon' – had allowed for the insignias of the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force to be used for such a clearly evangelical fundamentalist agenda should sicken anyone with any inkling of respect for the 'sacred' principle of religious freedom as enshrined by the foundational documents of our nation, namely the U.S. Constitution."
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty expressed disappointment on Tuesday over the decision by the Department of Defense officials to remove military edition Bibles from the shelves of military exchange stores.
"This is one more case of Department of Defense officials bowing to political pressure to create a 'religion free' zone in the military," said Chaplain Alliance officials.
"From General George Washington until today, military personnel have taken counsel, received comfort, and been encouraged by biblical texts," said Col. Ron Crews, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance. "These Bibles cost the Department of Defense nothing, and their presence is legally legitimate; therefore, no reason exists for the DoD to retreat in the face of the small anti-religious group that demanded removal of the Bibles."
The DoD had previously granted permission for these Bibles to use branch insignia, according to the alliance. DoD regularly allows vendors to use branch insignia for other books, for paintings, and for other items.
However, MRFF claims that it had been contacted by nearly 2,000 service members "who witnessed the Bibles being conspicuously featured on military exchange shelves and storefronts across the globe."
"This raised fears among military personnel that, in the words of an anonymous U.S. Air Force Judge advocate, it was 'a big step towards establishing the Holman Christian Standard Bible as the official religious text of the military services of the United States,'" MRFF stated.
Crews questions whether the DoD's apparent alignment with the MRFF's demand is an act of discrimination and is asking politicians to investigate.
"Why should these Bibles be removed because of the demands of a small activist group?" Crews asked. "MRFF must cease and desist their reckless assault on religious liberty. The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty calls on Congress to investigate this frivolous threat and apparent discrimination against religious views by the DoD."
Correction: Thursday, June 14, 2012:
An article on June 13, 2012 about a military edition Bible incorrectly described the Military Religious Freedom Foundation as an atheist activist organization. The group says its members are largely Christian and that it advocates for the separation of church and state rather than atheism.