August 18, 2014

​Bibles Booted from U.S. Navy Base Guest Rooms

 ©2014 Religion News Service

The U.S. Navy will no longer allow Bibles and
other religious materials in the guest rooms of Navy lodges, a decision that
has infuriated some conservative groups, which recently learned about the new

The Navy’s decision came after the Freedom
From Religion Foundation sent a letter questioning the constitutionality of
religious literature in the Navy lodges’ 3,000 guest rooms.

The June 19 directive from the Navy Exchange
Service Command, which runs the Navy’s 39 guest lodges in the U.S. and abroad,
allows religious materials to be made available to guests. But it forbids
religious items to be placed in guest rooms, aligning the command, known as
NEXCOM, with U.S. Navy policy, said NEXCOM spokeswoman Kathleen Martin.

On August 12 the American Family Association made
the directive the subject of its latest “action alert,” asking members to call
Navy officials to reverse the decision. The Chaplains Alliance for Religious
Liberty has called on the Navy to do the same.

“Our U.S. soldiers are being asked to respect the
Muslim religion while Christians are being categorically discriminated
against,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “Such an attack on religious liberty
has no place in the United States military.”

But supporters of the Navy directive, said it
rights a constitutional wrong, in that the establishment clause does not allow
the U.S. government to promote or favor any particular religion.

“We would be just as angry if there was a Quran
or a Torah or Richard Dawkins’ The God
,” in the bedside tables of these Navy lodges, said Mikey
Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The directive asks lodge managers to work with
Navy chaplains to determine “the method to remove religious material currently
in the guest rooms.”

The Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty said
NEXCOM was trampling on a long-standing tradition. “A Bible in a hotel room is
no more illegal than a chaplain in the military. They are there for those who
want them,” said retired Army Reserve Chaplain Ron Crews, the
alliance’s executive director. “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.”