A fight over religious freedom in Manchester, New Hampshire, is heading to federal court.
A Vietnam War veteran has filed a lawsuit against the Manchester Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center to get a bible removed from the lobby.
The plaintiff is actually a devout Christian, but is speaking up, he says, for service members and veterans who aren’t.
“Despite his personal beliefs, he is offended that other people’s beliefs are not represented,” said James Chamberlain’s attorney, Larry Vogelman. “To isolate one religion and hold it out as the official religion is just wrong.”
According to Chamberlain’s federal lawsuit, a group of 14 veterans complained about the bible’s placement in January. Manchester VA officials removed it, they say, “out of an abundance of caution.”
After consulting legal counsel, those officials put the bible back, where they say it will remain indefinitely.
In a statement issued to NBC10 Boston Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs called the lawsuit “nothing more than an attempt to force VA into censoring a show of respect for America’s POW/MIA community.”
The statement went on to say VA won’t be bullied on the issue.
Vogelman, whose Jewish father fought in World War II, is proud to have filed a federal lawsuit against the VAMC on behalf of his client to get the bible removed for good.
“The armed forces in the United States, small pockets of it, are really trying to Christianize the armed services,” Vogelman said.
Emotions are running high on both sides of this debate.
“I think that the bible should stay right where it is,” said veteran Larry Steele.
“There’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole,” said another New Hampshire veteran, Richard Malik.
While Vogelman says this bible represents religious discrimination, others believe the book, once carried by a former prisoner of war, preserves a piece of history.
“When you go into the service, you swear to God and country, plain and simple,” said David Courchesne, a Manchester man who served in Vietnam.
This post was originally posted at http://www.necn.com/news/new-england/Devout-Christian-Vietnam-Veteran-Fights-to-Have-Bible-Removed-From-Manchester-NH-VA-509659851.html.