Editor's note: The original version of this story referred to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation as an "atheist activist group." The description has been changed to "secular activist group" to more accurately portray their mission.
Bibles recently were removed from an Easter display at a New Mexico veterans medical center gift shop after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation — a secular activist group — objected to them.
What are the details?
The MRFF noted Wednesday that it managed to convince leaders at the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Administration Medical Center in Albuquerque to remove a display of Bibles and related Christian reading materials on "prominent display" in its Patriot Store facility on the first floor of the main medical building.
The MRFF said 10 employees and patients — seven of whom "identify as avid practitioners of the Christian faith" — complained and reached out to MRFF "for help regarding the unconstitutionality of that sectarian Christian literature display; especially as it was juxtaposed right next to an otherwise non-objectionable display of 'secular-ish' chocolate Easter bunnies, related holiday candy. and Easter bunny cutouts, et al."
According to MRFF, the displayed Bibles "completely violated the time, place, and manner restrictions of the VA’s own regulations as well as the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and its construing Federal caselaw."
The Bibles and other religious items were gone within 24 hours of the request, the MRFF added while praising the VA's quick actions.
Hold on a second
The American Center for Law & Justice caught wind of the issue and said it penned a legal letter — dated March 31 — to the interim director of the VA to "inform her that her decision, rather than upholding the Constitution, actually violated it" and "to demand that the display of Christian literature be returned forthwith to the gift shop."
The ACLJ insisted that the Constitution "requires the government to be neutral toward religion, to neither favor it nor inhibit it. By removing only the religious display while leaving the secular display of Easter bunnies, the government singled out religion for special detriment — which it may not lawfully do."
In addition, the ACLJ said "Easter is a time when many Christians exchange gifts. It makes sense for a gift shop to offer the type of items popular at Easter. Offering a religious product that visitors to your gift shop are looking for and wish to purchase — even in a gift shop in a federal facility like a VA Medical Center — does not mean that the government is either endorsing the message contained in the literature offered or favoring the faith group the literature reflects. To suggest otherwise is nonsense."
'Fighting Christian nationalism'
It isn't clear how or if the VA has responded to the ACLJ's demand to place the Bibles back on display in the gift shop. But the MRFF added on its website that the ACLJ is "constitutionally ignorant and religiously bigoted" and that the ACLJ's post about the controversy "repugnantly libels MRFF as 'anti-religion crusaders.'"
The MRFF added that it has "consistently – 24/7/365 – been at the forefront of fighting Christian nationalism in the military and our veterans' facilities."
As readers of TheBlaze are well aware, this is far from the first time the MRFF has raised objections of this sort:
- Last June, the MRFF ordered a naval facility to remove a Bible from a POW-MIA table as its presence goes against the military's core values and hurts unity, morale, and diversity.
- In May 2020, the MRFF requested that a senior Army chaplain be punished for the "absolutely egregious and deplorable act" of sharing a digital copy of the evangelical book "Coronavirus and Christ" with 35 subordinate chaplains.
- In early 2020, the group reportedly got up in arms over an Air Force base selling "Jesus" candy.