On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence garnered big applause in Indianapolis when he openly defended a veterans hospital publicly displaying a Holy Bible to commemorate imprisoned veterans.
According to the Indianapolis Star, the vice president addressed the American Legion's 101st national convention on Wednesday night where he spoke about a range of issues important to the Trump administration, from foreign policy to the bettering of healthcare for veterans. His most triumphant moment, however, came when he declared that the VA would not be a "religion-free" zone.
"Perhaps the biggest applause came when Pence said the VA would not be a 'religion-free' zone, referencing a lawsuit in New Hampshire that seeks to remove a historic Bible in a VA hospital," reports the outlet.
The lawsuit erupted in May of this year when the non-profit group Military Religious Freedom Foundation enlisted a veteran to file a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs over a historic Bible on display at a VA facility in New Hampshire. Mikey Weinstein, founder of the group, told the Indy Star that the VA was essentially raising one faith above all the rest by displaying the Bible at all.
"That is stamping it with the approval of raising one faith over all the others," he said. "From our perspective, it's a repugnant example of fundamentalist Christian triumphalism, exceptionalism, superiority, and domination, and it cannot stand."
The lawsuit also claimed that the plaintiff was a devout Christain who simply respected the religious beliefs of other service members. "As a Christian, he respects and loves all his military brothers and sisters and does not want to be exclusionary by placement of the Christian Bible," it said.
VA spokeswoman Kristin Pressly told USA Today that the Bible was removed temporarily but was subsequently placed back on display after considerable outcry from veterans. The Bible was part of a memorial to commemorate missing and imprisoned service members.
"Manchester VAMC officials temporarily removed the Bible from the display out of an abundance of caution," Pressly said. "Following that removal, Manchester VAMC received an outpouring of complaints from Veterans and other stakeholders – many of whom dropped off Bibles at the facility — in protest of this action."
Pressly added that the Bible will stay and "remain indefinitely as part of the missing man display, a secular tribute to America's POW/MIA community."
National VA spokesman Curt Cashour denounced the lawsuit at the time as "nothing more than an attempt to force VA into censoring a show of respect for America's POW/MIA community."
Vice President Mike Pence has previously spoken out about the importance of publicly displaying faith. Earlier in the month, while speaking before the Alliance Defending Freedom, Pence urged people to spend more time on their knees in prayer than on the internet.
"Spend more time on your knees than on the internet … Forgiveness is a great gift," he said. "As a Christian believer we're charged to pray for our loved ones but also pray for our enemies. You have lots of opportunities in politics to do that."