Arizona dental assistant sworn at for refusing a free Bible
Mikey Weinstein, above, founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, stepped in to defend a dental assistant who claims he was abused after refusing a Bible from a group of Christians who infiltrated a Phoenix hospital.
According to this report, Jesse Gonzales, a dental assistant at the Carl T Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center, was on a break when three men at a table offered him a free Bible.
Gonzales, an Air Force veteran, says he politely refused and proceeded into the canteen to purchase a snack.
However, when he was solicited again on the return trip, Gonzales says he asked whether the group was authorised to promote religion on federal property.
As Gonzales tells it, the youngest evangelist reacted angrily, using the “F” word and claiming to have VA authorisation as well as a legal right to pass out scriptures.
Weinstein says he was stunned by Gonzales’ experience, and contacted the hospital’s then-acting Director, Shawn Bransky, who agreed the incident was not handled appropriately.
Gonzales, who is affiliated the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says a crowd gathered as the argument erupted into shouted expletives on both sides.
Two VA police officers showed up and escorted him Gonzales away. They insisted he leave while the religious handouts continued.
These guys weren’t even supposed to be there. And here they were yelling at me? I believe in the Constitution. … But then the police hauled me away.
Weinstein said the problem goes deeper because other religious organisations also solicit inside the Phoenix VA hospital, including at least one Christian university.
This does not appear to be an isolated incident. You can’t engage the machinery of the state – the awesome power of federal government – to push your faith.
A hospital spokesman said the Bible distributors represented Native American Marriage Enhancement, a Pentecostal ministry. The group’s website says it is operated by John and Doris Knoles in affiliation with Dream City Church, formerly Phoenix First Assembly, and exists:
To provide free collegiate-level Pentecostal biblical and marital studies to our First Nations for spiritual growth and familial enrichment.
Gonzales says he tried to lodge a complaint internally, then contacted Mikey Weinstein.
Gonzales says Bransky later apologised, noting that the Bible group was unauthorised and promised to issue an explanatory email to VA employees.
Gonzales says he was thrilled at the positive response – until he saw message Bransky circulated. It said that the Bible distributors were denied a solicitation permit by the Phoenix VA Employees Association and “did not act in good faith.” It also offered regrets from the association to anyone “inadvertently offended”.
But Gonzales says the message amounted to a “slap in the face” for him and other upset veterans because it did not address his embarrassment at being treated “like some sort of criminal”.
Hat tip: Ron Medcalf