Bible displayed at US Naval base in Okinawa sparks controversy and investigation

Did sailors at the U.S. Naval base in Okinawa try to convert Japanese military families to Christianity? Following the discovery of a Bible on public display in its hospital, Navy officials launched an investigation that sparked from a complaint.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)Sailors man the rails as the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered super carrier, departs for Yokosuka, Japan from Naval Station North Island in San Diego, California August 31, 2015.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed a seven-page complaint on behalf of 26 servicemen who saw that a Bible was on display at the table by the Prisoner of War (POW)/Missing in Action (MIA) gallery. The group cited that, along with the displayed Bible, a placard also stated, "The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded one nation under God."

MMRF said that the Bible and the placard are unconstitutional to non-Christians. The displays violated the regulations of the Department of Defense and the Navy.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits public offices, including military installations, from endorsing any type of religion or faith and the same rule is also in the regulations from Pentagon.

The group's president and founder Mikey Weinstein, who served as a former Air Force judge, initially contacted the Navy hospital and asked that the religious items be removed. A Navy staff refused Weinstein's request pending an actual order from Capt. Cynthia Kuehner, the hospital's commander, who was still on leave. Weinstein then addressed the MMRF letter to Rear Adm. Paul Pearigen, who ordered the investigation.

Weinstein also alleged, "They translated a phrase into Japanese in order to proselytize the Japanese."

The Bible, however, has apparently been on display for years. A 2014 post in the Navy's official blog detailed each of the elements found in the POW/MIA table gallery.

"The Bible is on the table because it is part of the tradition that predates our current demands for political correctness," former Army Reserve Hiram Sasser told the Todd Starnes Radio Show. He also said that a simple Bible dispute perpetuated by one group does not reflect well on the U.S. Military against other nations.