US Navy to keep Bible on display in Okinawa base, rejects atheist group's demands

The Bible on display at a U.S. Naval base hospital in Okinawa will remain. Navy officials have rejected the demand of an atheist group to remove the item in the "Missing Man" table that honors war prisoners.

(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.

Rear Admiral Paul D. Pearigen, who received the complaint of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) early this month, said that the displayed Bible was not a promotion of religion hence it will not be removed. The admiral stated in his response to the MRFF that the Bible is part of the nine symbols that represented the "strength and resolve required of POW and MIA personnel in the most difficult of times."

The MRFF, through its president and founder Mikey Weinstein, filed the complaint on behalf of 26 servicemen. They claimed that the Bible, which had both English and Japanese texts on the label, could be seen as an evangelization. The group wanted an investigation to determine if there were attempts to convert military families in Japan to Christianity. The group also claimed that the Bible on display ignored other faiths or those who don't subscribe to religion at all and thus was not in accordance with the DoD and DoN regulations.

Pearigen, however, said that the matter wouldn't necessitate an investigation or a review because the Bible has been the "Missing Man" display for years as part of a military tradition. The book's inclusion in the display also lined up with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Navy (DoN) guidance, as well as the U.S. Constitution.

"Each item on the table contributes to an atmosphere of remembrance and solemnity without emphasizing the book as a religious text," Pearigen stated in his letter.

In 2016, the MRFF succeeded in having the Bible removed from the "Missing Man" table display in an Ohio Air Force facility. The group sent another letter to Pearigen to reconsider its decision or display other books of faith in the display alongside the Bible.