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Missing Man Table

Back in 2012, after receiving countless complaints about Bibles bearing the official military branch emblems showing up on PX and BX shelves across the military, the Official U.S. Military Emblems No Longer Allowed on Holman Military Bibles – MRFF Press Release, Features

" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) took action, successfully getting these military Bibles, published by Holman Bible Publishers, Official U.S. Military Emblems No Longer Allowed on Holman Military Bibles – MRFF Press Release, Features

" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">disallowed by all four military branches. This wasn’t a difficult fight, given that Department of Defense (DoD) trademark and licensing regulations are crystal clear on the subject, unambiguously stating that official military emblems cannot be used on items promoting religion. Holman Bible Publishers changed the covers of their military Bibles from sporting official military branch emblems to a more generic design, and life went on.

In recent years, the most common complaint received by MRFF, replacing the previous most common complaint of the Holman Bibles, has been the placement of Bibles on POW/MIA table displays at military installations and VA facilities. These tables, also called "missing man" tables, are a tradition started during the Vietnam War era in which a table is set with an empty chair, acknowledging those service members who are missing in action or prisoners of war. These tables are found in military dining facilities and elsewhere on military installations, set up as permanent displays, and it is also a common practice at events such as military balls and banquets to perform a ceremony during which the table is set while a script is read explaining the symbolism of each item as it is placed on the table.

The original POW/MIA table display, as first created by a group of combat pilots during the Vietnam era, did NOT include a Bible. The practice of adding a Bible didn’t begin until over 30 years later.

The original POW/MIA table display, as first created by a group of combat pilots during the Vietnam era, did NOT include a Bible. The practice of adding a Bible didn’t begin until over thirty years later, when a script for setting the table was published in a 1999 issue of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary magazine. A nearly identical script, also adding a Bible, was shortly thereafter adopted by the National League of POW/MIA Families, and gradually over the years the original Bible-free tradition was forgotten and the National League of POW/MIA Families version began to be mistakenly followed as the “tradition.”

Just as MRFF received a constant stream of complaints about the Holman military Bibles until 2012, we now receive a constant stream of complaints about POW/MIA tables. 

Now these two issues have collided at the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Alameda, California, where a POW/MIA table in the facility’s break room not only contains a Christian Bible, but the particular Bible displayed is the Holman “Sailor’s Bible,” one of the Holman military Bibles with the official branch emblem that MRFF got banned by the military back in 2012! 

Someone must have had an old edition of this Bible from before Holman changed its design to remove the illicitly used official Navy emblem and decided to add it to the display, not only turning the table, which should honor ALL POWs and MIAs, into a divisive display of Christian privilege but doing so with a Bible that has been banned by the Navy for nearly a decade.

As one Air Force judge advocate described the Holman Bibles back when MRFF got them disallowed, the use of official military emblems on them had been “a big step towards establishing the Holman Christian Standard Bible as the official religious text of the military services of the United States.” In the same sense, the untraditional “tradition” of adding any Christian Bible to POW/MIA tables by military installations is seen by many, both Christian and non-Christian, as a symbol that Christianity is the de facto official religion of the military.

Over the last five years, MRFF has had great success in getting military bases and VA facilities to remove the Bibles from their POW/MIA tables, or to replace the Bible with a generic book to be inclusive of service members of ALL faiths (see links to examples in the below e-mail), but not all commanders and VA facility directors have been amenable to making their POW/MIA displays honor those of all faiths or no faith. In one case, at the VA Medical Center in Manchester, NH, where a group of obstinate Christian nationalists has actually bolted a large Bible down to a POW/MIA table in an unsightly plexiglass box, two of MRFF’s clients are currently in federal court fighting to get the now ludicrously displayed symbol of Christian supremacy removed.

What will happen at the Navy Operational Support Center, Alameda, California, where the issue of a Bible on a POW/MIA table has been heightened by the Bible itself being one that is banned by the Navy, is yet to be seen. MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein has sent the following e-mail to the installation’s commander, and is awaiting a response:

From: Michael L Weinstein <mikeyw4444@icloud.com>

Subject: VIOLATIONS OF LAW UNDER YOUR COMMAND! U.S. Constitutional Civil Rights & DoD/U.S. Navy Trademark and Licensing Violations at NOSC Alameda

Date: October 20, 2021 at 10:04:40 AM MDT

To: roberto.dumlao@navy.mil

Cc: adam.schuman@navy.miljeffrey.mcnair@navy.miljohn.b.mustin.mil@us.navy.milmichael.m.gilday.mil@mail.milthomas.w.harker.civ@mail.mil, Information Weinstein <mikey@militaryreligiousfreedom.org>

Captain Roberto C. Dumlao,

This notice constitutes an official demand for you, as the Commander of Naval Operational Support Center (NOSC) Alameda, California, to IMMEDIATELY cease and desist from the current U.S. Constitutional civil rights violations and DoD/U.S. Navy Trademark and Licensing Violations under your direct command.

For the particulars of these egregious illegalities for which you are directly responsible, please see the October 18, 2021 explanatory e-mail further below from MRFF Senior Research Director Ms. Chris Rodda.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has received complaints from U.S. Navy personnel at your facility regarding the inclusion of a Christian Bible prominently included with the POW/MIA Table display in the break room. (See the photos sent in a follow-up e-mail to this one.)

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There are dual noxious illegalities associated with NOSC Alameda’s usage of this sectarian Christian Bible in the aforementioned POW/MIA Table display as detailed below.

Besides the obvious, unconstitutional utilization of ONLY the majority faith’s scriptures (the Christian Bible) to the utter exclusion of ALL other faiths’ and non-faith traditions’ scriptures on that POW/MIA Table display, that particular Bible, the so-called “Sailor’s Bible” produced by the Holman Bible Company, has LONG been banned by DoD and the U.S. Navy. Why, you may ask? Because Holman Bible Publishers had been blatantly violating the Trademark and Licensing regulations of DoD for years through its unauthorized and illicit usage of the U.S. Navy emblem and other branch emblems on its military Bibles. MRFF led the charge in 2012 to stop Holman Bible Publishers from further producing and selling these unlawful Bibles. (Again, see more information below on this sordid matter.)

Capt. Dumlao, perhaps it might be useful for you to understand that the U.S. Navy is a vastly diverse organization and, further, that not all sailors practice the Christian faith, just as not all POWs and MIAs were or are Christians. 

Diversity is the true strength of our armed forces. Indeed, new Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, made it clear when he first assumed his position that he desired to be the lodestar for racial and religious diversity, inclusion, and equality throughout DoD. 

Sadly, Capt. Dumlao, it doesn’t seem that you even remotely support the Defense Secretary’s clarion call for universal diversity in DoD.

Your prominent inclusion of ONLY the Christian Bible (and, wretchedly exacerbated by the fact that you are using one that was explicitly banned by DoD nearly a DECADE ago!), on your unit’s POW/MIA Table display not only violates the U.S. Constitution’s No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, it also tears asunder the good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion of those sailors who have to see it under your command. Additionally, it viciously violates the Core Values of the United States Navy. Truly, it is an imperious act of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, exclusivity, exceptionalism, and domination.

CAPTAIN ROBERTO C. DUNMLAO, YOU ARE DIRECTED TO PERMANENTLY REMOVE THAT ILLICIT “SAILOR’S Bible” FROM YOUR POW/MIA TABLE DISPLAY IN YOUR BREAK ROOM AT NOSC ALAMEDA FORTHWITH!

From: Chris Rodda <research@militaryreligiousfreedom.org>

Subject: POW/MIA table at Naval Operational Support Center (NOSC) Alameda, CA

Date: October 18, 2021 at 9:01:11 AM MDT

To: Mikey Weinstein <mikey@militaryreligiousfreedom.org>, Michael L Weinstein <mikeyw4444@icloud.com>

Regarding the complaints about the Bible on the POW/MIA table at Naval Operational Support Center (NOSC) Alameda, CA, there are two big problems with this display.

The first, of course, is that the display of a Bible by a government entity is an unacceptable and unconstitutional promotion of religion, and on this solid ground alone we have successfully gotten quite a few military bases and VA facilities to remove Bibles from their similar displays or to replace the Bible with a generic book to be inclusive of service members of ALL faiths:

The second problem in the case of this display is with the particular Bible on the table. 

The Bible is a Holman “Sailor’s Bible.” This is one of the Holman military Bibles that were disallowed by the all of the military branches, including the Navy, back in 2012 for violating the DoD’s Trademark and Licensing regulations, which strictly prohibit the use of the official DoD seals on items that promote religion. 

A Bible that has been disallowed by the Navy for its violation of DoD regulations should obviously not be on display anywhere on any naval base!

And, as you well know, the original POW/MIA tradition did NOT include a Bible. These table were not intended by their creators to be religious. They were meant to honor ALL service members who were POWs or MIA. The practice of adding a Bible to this previously non-religious tradition didn’t begin until 30 years after the tradition was started.

These are two article I wrote that contain the real history of the POW/MIA table:

Chris Rodda Promo Image

“Bibles don't belong on POW remembrance tables”

This article was a bit sarcastic, but contains the history of the table in a bit more detail:

“Apparently, the American Legion Hates Jesus”

Chris Rodda
MRFF