The South Dakota Legislature passed Senate Bill 55 forcing every public school to tell its students that we’re all Christian. The Sioux Falls VA hospital is apparently saying the same thing about all missing American soldiers.
The Sioux Falls VA has placed in its lobby a “Missing Man” display (as if women haven’t also gone MIA) which includes a Christian Bible. A local Buddhist veteran who served in Vietnam complained about the lack of inclusivity and got some backup from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. According to Crooks and Liars, Sioux Falls VA Acting Director Barbara Teal responded by replacing the Bible with “a donated artifact belonging to a former WWII POW”—another Bible:
I wish I could look to Sioux Falls as an island of progressive urban inclusivism (since every great city is built on immigration and diversity), but hey: this is the town that elected Paul TenHaken mayor. Even in burgeoning and bustling Sioux Falls, the Buddhist vet feels he must remain anonymous about his complaint, lest he face small-town backlash:
He first tried to get the VA to correct it themselves, but he couldn’t even get an email address to communicate his complaint.
“I called the director’s office to get an email to send an email complaint, and I was basically told by the secretary that she wouldn’t give it to me, and that I should tell her my problem that she could take care of it,” he said. “But she wanted my name and everything else first.”
That’s a problem anywhere, as anonymity is essential for the complaint process to work, especially where religion is concerned, especially in a place like Sioux Falls. “It’s a beautiful place, but the only trouble is, is also very insular and very Christian,” he said. “I’m fairly active in the veterans community here, and if it came out that I was doing this, my kids would be in trouble, I would be in trouble, probably drummed off of the few of the veterans things that I do…. There definitely would be some retribution” [Paul Rosenberg, “Sioux Falls VA Respects the Dead—As Long As They’re Christian,” Crooks and Liars, 2019.03.30].
For the umpteenth time: we non-Christian South Dakota aren’t asking all the Christians in South Dakota to stop being Christian. We would just like Christian South Dakotans to stop acting like they’re the only South Dakotans.
Non-believers like me, Buddhists like the veteran in Sioux Falls, and other non-Christians don’t need the government to put up posters and displays to affirm our religious beliefs or lack thereof; why do majoritarian Christians who control powerful institutions like the Legislature and the Sioux Falls VA, need to use their public power to prop up their beliefs?