A coalition of Christian leaders sent a letter this week to the Pentagon in support of allowing Gideon Bibles to remain in Navy lodges despite a complaint from a prominent atheist organization.
As previously reported, in March of this year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) advising that two unidentified service members contacted them to report that “every Navy lodging room they have stayed in during decades of service contained a Bible” but rarely other religious or non-religious books. The organization asserted that such practice is unconstitutional and shows favoritism toward Christianity.
“Providing Bibles to guests in Navy-run hotels amounts to a government endorsement of that religious text,” the letter stated. “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.”
Following receipt of the letter, NEXCOM issued a directive that Bibles currently in hotel rooms on naval bases must be removed by September 1st.
But last month, spokespersons for the Navy advised that NEXCOM made the decision without consulting senior officials, and directed that any Bibles that have been removed from guest rooms be replaced while Navy policy is reviewed by the proper hierarchy.
On Wednesday, a group of Christian leaders, known as the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, sent a letter to Secretary of State Chuck Hagel and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to request that the Bibles be allowed to remain indefinitely through proposed Department of Defense (DOD) policy. Col. Ronald Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Lt. General William Boykin of Family Research Council and MG. Paul Vallely of Stand Up America were among the over 20 leaders who signed the correspondence.
“The mere presence of a Gideon Bible in a hotel room does not constitute a form of messaging from the proprietor to the guest,” the letter contended. “In the same way that no one is coerced into watching a religious television channel simply because it is available as a choice in most cable television packages, no visitor to a Navy lodge is coerced into reading a Bible simply because it is present in a night stand.”
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SOURCE: Christian News Network