China is banning Bibles from the Olympic Games next year allegedly for security reason, according to reports Tuesday.
The Bible is on a list of items – which include video cameras and cups – prohibited at the 2008 Summer Olympics, according to Fox News. This means Christian athletes will not have access to Bibles in their Olympic village housing.
Moreover, the communist and officially atheist country is banning all religious symbols at Olympic facilities in Beijing and warning visitors to not bring more than one copy of the Bible with them to China.
"The banning of Bibles and religious symbols by athletes in the Olympic Village by the Chinese government is evidence that it has not progressed to the level of civility that is worthy of hosting the international Olympic games," the Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick, Washington representative for Christian Solidarity International, told The Christian Post.
"The Olympics should be an occasion to promote the higher aspirations of humanity – respect for human rights, peace and unity," he continued. "Yet, the Chinese government has opted to make a statement of intolerance and disregard for universally accepted human rights."
The controversial move came merely a month after China's top religious affairs official pledged to encourage religion during the Games.
Ye Xiaowen, director-general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, had said Beijing will "make sure" the religious needs of athletes and tourists will be met.
"Here I can promise that religious services we offer will not be lower than the level of any previous Games," Ye said, according to Reuters.
China also announced in September it would set up a temporary church in the Olympic Village during the 2008 Games for Catholic athletes, according to the China Daily.
Liu Bainian, vice-president of the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said the Beijing diocese was training priest fluent in foreign languages to celebrate Mass during the Games.
"All will be arranged in accordance with the practices adopted by other Olympic host cities," Bainian had promised.
Following the latest development, Open Doors' media relations director Jerry Dykstra said it was "apparent" that what the Chinese government says and does concerning religion are "two different things."
"It wants the world to believe there is growing religious freedom in China leading up to the Olympics," Dykstra said. "But the banning of Bibles and religious symbols in the Olympic village represents its two-faced approach.
"How can Christians worship freely in the village without Bibles?"
He pointed out other religious freedom violations in China such as increase surveillance of house church meetings, Bible trainings, and baptisms as the Games nears.
Although it is banning Bibles at the Olympic village, Beijing has reportedly encouraged hotels to make Bibles available in rooms for foreign tourists.