Military chaplains are calling for donated Bibles to be allowed in Navy lodges after an atheist group successfully lobbied to have them removed.
The atheist nonprofit Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to the Navy complaining about the Bibles back in March. The Bibles had been donated by various Christian charities, including the famous Gideons International, who have distributed nearly 2 million Bibles to hotels, motels, hospitals, schools and prisons since its founding in 1908. This shocking discovery was brought to their attention by two FFRF member servicemen who noted that “nearly every Navy lodging room” they’d stayed in over the course of their careers contained a Bible.
“Providing bibles to guests in Navy-run hotels amounts to a government endorsement of that religious text,” the letter explains. “Including bibles sends the message to non-Christian and non-religious guests that they should read the bible… Such a practice alienates non-Christian guests whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the bibles, including the 20% of the U.S. population that is nonreligious.”
The Navy responded a few months later, ordering the Navy Lodge General Manager to “remove religious material currently in the guest rooms.”
“By removing bibles from Navy-run lodges, the Navy has taken a step to ensure that it is not sending the impermissible message that Christians are favored over guests with other religious beliefs or over those guests with no religion,” said FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover at the time.
Now a chaplain advocacy group is speaking out.
“A Bible in a hotel room is no more illegal than a chaplain in the military,” said former chaplain Col. Ron Crews, currently Executive Director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “There is nothing wrong with allowing the Gideons to place Bibles in Navy lodges, which it has done for decades at no cost to the Navy. Our service men and women are often away from home, sometimes for long periods of time. It’s perfectly constitutional and legal to allow the Gideons to provide, at their own expense, this source of comfort for service men and women of faith.”
According to a 2012 Military Times poll, 76 percent of American servicemen and women identify as some kind of Christian.
“It’s tiresome to see senior military leaders needlessly cave in to activist groups offended by anything Christian,” continued Crews. “We sincerely hope that the Navy will reverse its decision as the Air Force did in 2012 after the public spoke loudly and clearly against this sort of censorship.” (RELATED: Federal Court Tells Atheist Group ‘The Ground Zero Cross Stays)
Prior to 2012, the Air Force lodging checklist included the question “Is a Bible provided?” After pressure from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the question was removed, but the Bibles themselves were not.
The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard all have lodging and hotel programs providing discounted accommodations to active duty, reserve and retired servicemen and women and their families throughout the world.
FFRF also encourages civilians to request “Bible-free rooms” when staying at privately-owned hotels and motels. “We shouldn’t have to pay high prices to be proselytized in the privacy of our own hotel or motel room,” according to FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “We shouldn’t have to open our bedside table to find in it a so-called ‘holy book’ which glorifies violence and discrimination against nonbelievers, women, gays and children.”