August 23, 2014

​Give me the Bible: Navy Lodges Scuttle Removal Plan

 ©2014 Religion News Service

The Gideon Bibles are going back
in the Navy’s nightstand drawers.

In June, the U.S. Navy ordered
housekeepers at thousands of Navy-owned guest lodges near U.S. and
international bases to remove the Bibles and any other “religious materials”
from their rooms. Scriptures would remain available on request.

But public outcry, prompted by a
social media alert from the American Family Association and protests by
the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, led the brass to reverse course on
August 15.

Now, the Navy’s “religious
accommodation policies with regard to the placement of religious materials are
under review,” Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ryan Perry wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes, the daily military
newspaper. Meanwhile, the Bibles (New Testament and Psalms but no Hebrew
Bible) will be tucked back into nightstand drawers.

AFA President Tim Wildmon
rejoiced on the association’s web site: “This is great news!”

A letter from
the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation prompted the original
order to remove the Bibles. The atheists proposed that the Navy offer Bibles
and other texts — including an atheist treatise, “The Born Again Skeptic’s
Guide to the Bible” — on request at lodge front desks.

“The bottom line is that the
Navy’s preferential treatment of Bibles … shows an unconstitutional preference
for Christianity over all other religions and over nonreligion,” Sam Grover,
the atheist group’s staff lawyer, told Religion
News Service
on August 15. “We are confident that ultimately the Navy
will revise its policy to conform with the requirements of the Constitution,
which each Navy service member has sworn an oath to uphold and defend.”

FFRF is not only pressing the
Navy for change. Grover said the group has sent a similar letter to the Air
Force, which removed the Bibles from its lodges in 2012 and returned them after
a similar outcry.