As I wrote last week, in a post titled “VA medical center petulantly removes ENTIRE ‘missing man’ table rather than remove Bible from it!,” a VA medical center in Kentucky had removed its entire POW/MIA, or “missing man,” table display from its lobby rather than simply removing the Gideons “New Testament — Psalms and Proverbs” from the table, which was all that a group of twelve veterans wanted the facility to do.
Those veterans had come to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation(MRFF), and, on their behalf, MRFF’s Mikey Weinstein fired off an email to Russell Armstead, the executive director of the Lexington, Kentucky VA Health Care System, in which he demanded that this exclusively Christian book be removed from the table, citing the VA’s own regulations that prohibit the display of items promoting one religion. Such permanent displays of items promoting one religion aren’t even allowed in VA facility chapels, let alone a VA medical center’s lobby.
The next thing MRFF heard, and saw in the photos sent by one of the veterans, was that rather than just removing the exclusively Christian Gideons book from the table, which, as I wrote in my previous post, would apparently have been too much for their Christian nationalist sensibilities to bear, the facility’s staff removed the ENTIRE table display!
This was NOT what the veterans wanted! As one of them wrote in an email to MRFF:
As we usually do here at MRFF, after I wrote my post about the whole table being removed, we sent it out in an email blast to MRFF’s mailing list. We also, of course, sent that email blast to the executive director of the Lexington, Kentucky VA Healthcare System, Russell Armstead, and, lo and behold, today Mr. Armstead replied to it, and in the best possible way. In a letter attached to his reply, he wrote (emphasis added):
You can read Mr. Armstead’s whole letter here.
Mr. Armstead also took the time to respond with a similar letter to an email written to him by a former AD and evangelical Christian Reserve Army chaplain, current DoD-approved ecclesiastical endorsing agent, and MRFF supporter, who wrote in his email that he “was stunned that you have removed a very meaningful display honoring POW/MIA service-members at the VAMC Lexington (Troy Bowling Campus) merely because conscientious veterans have asked that a New Testament not be displayed to serve as representing the faiths of all service-members.”
MRFF commends Mr. Armstead for his decision to do the right thing and honor ALL veterans in the VA medical facilities under his control. It is much appreciated by the group of veterans represented by MRFF, as it will surely also be by many other veterans who receive care at the other facilities in the Lexington VA Health Care System.
Written by Chris Rodda. Cross-posted from Daily Kos.