The director of veterans' affairs for a civil rights organization resigned Tuesday just days into the job after he and his family were threatened by religious extremists angry over his role in the removal of a Bible from a missing man memorial at a veterans clinic in Youngstown, Ohio.
On Monday, Jordan Ray, a retired Army captain who served multiple overseas tours, started his job with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. On Tuesday, following Military.com's report about Bible's removal and Ray's role in it, he and his family were stunned and frightened by the threats made against them in online forums.
"I cannot believe I deployed five times to fight radical Islamists overseas only to come home, voice my opinion, and be attacked by radical Christians," Ray, 41, said in his letter of resignation, a copy of which was provided to Military.com on Wednesday. "Who's persecuting who?"
In an interview on Wednesday with Military.com, Ray said in addition to online threats, he received voice messages left on his family's home phone that he took as veiled threats. They called him "godless SOBs [who] should kill ourselves, die, etc.," he said.
Ray, 41, said he served in the Army for 13 years before combat injuries to his spine and nervous system forced his retirement with a full disability rating.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the organization, told Military.com he regretted Ray's resignation but understands it.
"My family, as well as MRFF's hundreds of paid and volunteer staff and countless supporters domestically and around the world know well what this kind of hostile reprisal and retribution from fundamentalist evangelical Christian extremists is like," he said.
Weinstein said he routinely receives hate mail, some of it anti-Semitic, from people angry that he challenges military officials whenever there are allegations of improper displays of religion.
Ray contacted the organization last month after seeing the Bible on the missing man table. Other veterans, who have remained unidentified, joined in the complaint.
The Youngstown incident was the second time that the group pressed an Ohio VA clinic over its display of a Bible on a missing man display. In February, the clinic in Akron removed the Bible.
Ray said he served two 18-month deployments to Afghanistan as an adviser to the Afghan National Army, as well as tours in Serbia, Kosovo, Egypt's Sinai and Qatar.
In his letter of resignation, he said he continues to support what the foundation does in opposing extremist Christians who push their theology on others.
But while he supports the foundation's mission, Ray said he could not do so as an official representative "due to Fundamentalist, Evangelist, and Dominionist threats made against myself, my wife, and my child in online forums simply for standing up to what I believe is a constitutional right of all soldiers and veterans equality when it comes to Faith and ideology."