The Christian Post reports that in 1985, the American Legion passed a resolution to set up these tables at their events. While they did not officially establish the Bible as the book that should be placed on them, the Department of Defense's website says the tables -- typically clad with a white tablecloth and featuring an empty chair, a single candle, an inverted glass, and a ribboned rose in a vase -- could include a book of faith.
But on November 14, Attorney Michael "Mikey" Weinstein sent a letter to Russell Armstead, the executive director of the VA Healthcare System in Lexington, Kentucky, on behalf of 12 veteran clients arguing that the Bible's presence on the "Missing Man Table" at the VA facility violated Department of Defense policy and the Constitution's Establishment Clause.
Weinstein, whose team has been fighting to remove Christian materials from these tables for years, claims books of faith are not part of the tradition, and he compares seeing the Bible on the commemorative tables to seeing a "tarantula on a wedding cake."
His complaint threatened "aggressive and highly visible federal litigation."
Pointing out that the Establishment Clause forbids Congress from making laws establishing religion and "prohibiting the free exercise thereof," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, says the entire premise of Weinstein's legal activism is bad.
"This organization led by Mikey Weinstein, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, I don't know why anyone ever listens to him … because it's just smoke and mirrors," Staver contends. "He threatened legal action to remove the Bible. That legal action certainly would never have been successful."
"Removing this one item to the exclusion of anything else really doesn't show neutrality," Staver continues. "It shows hostility toward religion, which the Constitution forbids."
In response to Weinstein's letter, Director Armstead pledged to replace the Bibles with blank journals.