Local News

Former Chaplain Takes on VA's Christian Symbolism Ban

Posted March 17, 2008
Updated March 18, 2008

— The former chaplain of the Veterans Affairs hospital in Fayetteville is taking a fight for Christian symbolism to the City Council.

“It's nothing more than a big, bare room – an empty room with a museum-type effect,” former Chaplin Archie Barringer said in describing  how the hospital chapel looks today.

In September, hospital staff removed images of Jesus from the altar. A cross was replaced with plastic flowers, and paper shades were used to cover stained glass windows that have Christian symbols.

"Later on, someone came in and sawed the crosses off the back of the pulpit chair,” Barringer said.

Two months later, Barringer resigned as the hospital's chief chaplain.

"I would say this has gone beyond the point of neutralization to desecration,” he said.

The VA says it is is honoring a longstanding policy that requires chapels to remain religiously neutral.

Keith Ethridge, the national director of VA chaplains, said chapels must make all faiths feel welcome.

Barringer doesn't agree. He wants City Council members to write letters to the state's congressional delegation about allowing VA chapels to reflect what he called the nation's Judeo-Christian heritage.

He is "requesting that the regulation be rescinded, revamped and rewritten in order that our Judeo-Christian symbols of faith be restored to our chapel,” he said.

The chapel is not devoid of all Christian symbols. Bibles are on tables. A video that plays depicts Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount.

"I don't believe in discriminating against anyone, and I believe that we should certainly provide for all faith groups,” Barringer said.

Barringer supports having a separate room devoted to multiple faiths, he said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said the Christian symbols were removed after complaints during a Sept. 11 anniversary service.

Barringer's proposal was heard during Monday night's City Council meeting


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sparshall Mar 20, 2008

    You should take care to check multiple sources. Wikipedia is a good place to start but that particular section you posted was also flagged for neutrality. Though I will agree that the verbage was likely included to calm the waters with the Muslims. If you research the article in question and our founding fathers, you'll find a different story in regards to this being a christian nation.

  • atozca Mar 20, 2008

    "We're talking about an institution funded with taxpayer money. Taxpayers are made up of people of all religions, as well as people who aren't a member of any religion at all. I don't want my money spent in a fashion that promotes one religion above others, whether I'm a member of that religion or not."

    Rev, while I agree with you, I doubt that government money paid for these items to begin with. Typically these Chapels are sponsored by a non-profit group and/or the symbols are donated. I think the government would be hard pushed to produce a receipt for the items removed, covered and damaged.

    I find that Christians in general are not outspoken and demanding about other religions because we don't assume that their symbols or very presence is an effort of trying to cram their religion down our throats.

    Do we really believe that when someone walks into a chapel which is by definition a place of worship that they are offended to find that there are articles of worship there?

  • Freakazoid Mar 20, 2008

    Or one could always assume that the verbage was included to calm the Muslims of Tripoli so that therefore they need not fear a religious war from the U.S.

  • Freakazoid Mar 20, 2008

    Cathcart commissioned the Italian translation of the treaty, which also does not contain the Article XI as Barlow had it.

  • Freakazoid Mar 20, 2008

    How that script came to be written and to be regarded, as in the Barlow translation, as Article 11 of the treaty as there written, is a mystery and seemingly must remain so. Nothing in the diplomatic correspondence of the time throws any light whatever on the point[19].
    From this, Miller concludes: "A further and perhaps equal mystery is the fact that since 1797 the Barlow translation has been trustfully and universally accepted as the just equivalent of the Arabic... yet evidence of the erroneous character of the Barlow translation has been in the archives of the Department of State since perhaps 1800 or thereabouts..."[19]

  • Freakazoid Mar 20, 2008

    sparshall: per Wikipedia:

    The translation of the Treaty of Tripoli by Barlow has been found faulty, and there is doubt whether Article 11 corresponds to anything of the same purport in the Arabic version.

    In 1931 Hunter Miller completed a commission by the United States government to analyze United States's treaties and to explain how they function and what they mean in terms of the United States's legal position in relationship with the rest of the world.[18] According to Hunter Miller's notes, "the Barlow translation is at best a poor attempt at a paraphrase or summary of the sense of the Arabic" and "Article 11... does not exist at all."[19]After comparing the United States's version by Barlow with the Arabic and even the Italian version, Miller continues by claiming that:

    The Arabic text which is between Articles 10 and 12 is in form a letter, crude and flamboyant and withal quite unimportant, from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. How that script came to be

  • Adelinthe Mar 20, 2008

    AirBiscuit - "My main reason for posting any argument about the existance of Jesus is that He has changed my life (I was suicidal, I was depressed, and I hated everyone) so radically that I can't deny His existance and His power."

    Thank God you found Him and have been abundantly blessed by His grace.

    Always remember, neither God nor Christ need judges or defense attorneys - they need WITNESSES, and we witness best by showing all a Godly image, as much as the weaknesses in our human flesh allows.

    God bless you abundantly.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Mar 20, 2008

    "It's important to be respectful of people's beliefs. That goes for whether you're a Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Quaker or Pastafarian. If you can't discuss a subject without insulting people, then you should walk away from the keyboard."


    It sounds like some of you are reading the parts of the Koran where it condones disrespect and even death to those who are not Muslims.

    If you're a Christian, for God's sakes, begin to act one by displaying the fruit of the spirit which is:

    Fruit of the Spirit" is a biblical term that sums up the nine visible attributes of a true Christian life. Using the King James Version of Galatians 5:22-23, these attributes are:

    Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.

    Not seeing much of any of these from some of you posters here. Get ye hence away from this forum, get down on your knees and pray for forgiveness for the divisiveness you have shown here.

  • Adelinthe Mar 20, 2008

    Claire - "Again, NOTHING has been taken away, except some religious symbols. There's no privilege here. If people are incapable of praying without being surrounded by religious symbols, then their faith isn't very strong.

    We're talking about an institution funded with taxpayer money. Taxpayers are made up of people of all religions, as well as people who aren't a member of any religion at all. I don't want my money spent in a fashion that promotes one religion above others, whether I'm a member of that religion or not.

    Unlike a lot of people who call themselves Christians, I have compassion for people of other faiths. It's not about political correctness - it's about compassion, people. I thought that was one of the things Jesus taught. It's too bad that message hasn't reached a lot of the people who claim to know Him."


    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Mar 20, 2008

    catwoman1 - "One day EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. People have the choice to accept or reject Him. Continue to pray for the non-believers."


    But until then, let us persevere to obey the laws of the country in which we live, leading our lives as if He were leading them - and He is not a lawbreaker.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB