- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Bible under bolted glass at the VA Hospital received a hearty note of support from Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, who spoke to the American Legion national convention in defiance of what he termed efforts to be “politically correct” undertaken by the Obama administration.

“You might’ve heard even today that there’s a lawsuit to remove a Bible that was carried in World War II from a Missing Man Table at a VA hospital in New Hampshire,” said Mr. Pence, in prepared remarks before the 101st American Legion convention in Indianapolis. “It’s really no surprise because, under the last administration, VA hospitals were removing Bibles and even banning Christmas carols in an effort to be politically correct.”

Mr. Pence said under the Trump Administration, VA hospitals will not be “religion-free zones.”

“And my message to the New Hampshire VA hospital is: The Bible stays,” he said, pointing out to the audience, who responded with whoops of applause.

During the 35-minute speech, Mr. Pence spoke about reduced wait times at VA hospitals, gave enthusiast support for “”Space Command,” which he said “will be here soon,” and called watching 55 flag-draped caskets return from North Korea an “extraordinary experience.”

Earlier this year, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a veteran of the Air Force sued the VA in New Hampshire alleging a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause of Religion for the display of a Bible at a POW/MIA table in the lobby.

On Monday in an interview with The Washington Times, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the lawsuit — following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in American Legion v. American Humanist, which upheld the constitutionality of a memorial cross on public lands in Maryland — was all but “moot.”

“The last administration … had a very ahistoric approach [to veterans],” said Mr. Wilkie, who noted that he as a boy growing up in a military family in North Carolina used to sing Christmas carols to hospitalized veterans. “They did not know the makeup of the force.”

Mr. Wilkie also decried efforts by the previous administration of stripping religious memorabilia and limiting the ability of chaplains to disseminate religious texts. However, a senior advisor for the VA added in the interview that the VA’s stricture against proselytization remains in place.

The VA employs nearly 800 chaplains across its hospital system.

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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