Washington Gadfly

GOP Rep Again Blasts Activist Responsible For VA Clinic Bible Removal

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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Republican Georgia Representative [crscore]Doug Collins[/crscore] says the military religious liberties activist who likened him to dog feces for complaining his group forced the removal of a Christian Bible from a VA clinic display is the epitome of liberal intolerance.

In a telephone interview, Collins told the Washington Gadfly that “name-calling is a step up for” Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein. The Air Force Reserve chaplain said Weinstein’s rhetorical doggie doo dollop shows that self-styled tolerant people are actually the most “intolerant” in the world.

But Collins was unwilling to tolerate a direct conversation with Weinstein, declining this reporter’s offer to conference call both of them.

“I have no desire to talk to Mikey Weinstein,” he explained.

The Georgia congressman also shrugged off charges from Weinstein, a registered Republican and former Reagan White House aide,  that it is improper for him to serve in both Congress and remain an Air Force reserve chaplain.

“He knows of not of which he speaks.”

It was actually refreshing in an era where many liberals and some conservatives pretend that “common ground” is possible on every issue to find somebody who is realistic and honest enough to indicate that better communications and beer summits are often worthless when fundamental values clash.

Depending on your perspective the Bible’s presence at the POW/MIA display table at the Akron Multiple Specialty Outpatient Clinic either turned turns the place into a Taliban military installation or it amounted to nothing but constitutionally protected religious expression.

The Kings James Bible and framed Scriptural quotations were removed in late February the day after Weinstein, acting on behalf of 11 clinic patients, complained to administrator Brian Reinhart. He argued the distinctly Christian place at the table was an unconstitutional establishment of religion and violated VA regulations.

There was really no room for compromise.

Collins: “This is a religious freedom issue. It is not an issue of somebody promoting a particular religion.”

Weinstein: “Collins lacks any ability to understand the legal aspects of that because he is a white male Christian like a fish in aquarium never sees the water.  It is willful stupidity on purpose.”

What a pleasure to hear two people insult each other without the standard Washington preamble about how much mutual respect they feel despite particular differences.

Yup. The offered cell phone conversation would have just wasted everybody’s precious minutes.

Meanwhile, Weinstein’s group this week demanded that another Ohio VA clinic remove a Christian Bible placed on the same kind of POW-MIA table.

In a letter to the Youngstown VA, which oversees the Multi-Specialty Outpatient VA Clinic, Weinstein said, “your intolerable actions of Christian religious sponsorship, bias, favoritism, supremacy and endorsement are blatantly violative of not only the bedrock policies of the Department of Veterans Affairs but also the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and its litany of well-established Federal and State case law regarding the mandated separation of church and state.”

Weinstein said he acted at the behest of  seven decorated and severely wounded patients.

He asked, “As a practical matter, why in the world would you ever want to make ANY of our nation’s cherished veterans feel as though they were less valuable as American citizens and as human beings by singularly elevating, to venerated and celebrated status, one religion over all others and no religion?”

Weinstein speculates that the clinic, which on Monday threatened a decorated veteran with arrest for taking pictures of it, could have been emboldened by Collins and the Family Research Council calling removal of the other Bible an assault on Christianity.


Does that line of argument sound familiar?

It basically inverts the typical liberal contention that anybody who opposes government giving racial preferences for employment instead of remaining neutral is anti-black.  How can conservatives seriously favor state neutrality on race if they do not take the same position for religion?

Nobody’s religious rights are violated if the Bible is removed from an official clinic display. Clinic patients are free to bring their own Bibles to the clinic for whatever purpose they please.

Unlike forcing religious bakeries to make gay wedding cakes or the Obamacare contraceptive mandate excluding the Bible does not make anybody act counter to his religious beliefs. Let’s consider that anybody who thinks the Christian Bible is crucial to any POW-MIA display could set up one in his own house.

By way of contrast, in 2013, a married Catholic couple who refused to host a gay wedding at their Albany, New York farm were fined $13,000 by state authorities for violating non-discrimination laws. The penalty was upheld by a state appeals court this January.

Weinstein gave the clinic until Friday to answer his demand letter.

Don’t look for him to hold a conference call with VA officials to find common ground if they say Christian Bibles at POW-MIA display tables today, tomorrow and forever.


Evan Gahr