Atheist Group Wants Removal of 'Obnoxious' Gideon Bibles From Hotel Rooms

The American Center for Law and Justice said it plans to stand up to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which recently called for the removal of Gideon Bibles from state-run lodgings.

The group noted that the latest battle began after FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and her husband, Dan Barker, stayed at the Holmes Student Center Hotel in DeKalb, Illinois, and discovered a Gideon Bible placed in their hotel room.

"No one is making any guest open the Bible. No one is making them read it. In fact, the university is not 'providing bibles;' it is allowing a Christian group to place literature, the Bible, in hotel rooms much like a pizzeria may leave coupons," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow wrote on Thursday.

"They unbelievably claimed to be 'proselytized in the privacy of their own bedrooms.' Who knew a closed Bible's mere presence qualified as proselytizing. Yet, they called the Bible 'obnoxious' and claimed that the mere presence of the Bible in a state-run lodging was 'inappropriate and unconstitutional,'" the ACLJ described.

The FFRF has focused on removing Bibles from public places as part of its ongoing effort aimed at ensuring the separation of church and state.

The atheist group revealed at the end of October that Northern Illinois University agreed to remove the Bibles from the Holmes hotel following their complaint.

"Providing Bibles to Holmes Student Center Hotel guests sends the message that NIU endorses the religious texts. Including Bibles sends the message to non-Christian and non-religious guests that they should read the Bible, and specifically the version of the bible provided: the Gideon Bible," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan D. Jayne wrote in the initial letter.

"Certainly, if guests want to read this religious text during their stay, they can bring their own copy or access any of the numerous churches or libraries near the university."

Gaylor elaborated on her position against Bibles in a state-run hotel.

"The Bible calls for killing nonbelievers, apostates, gays, 'stubborn sons,' and women who transgress biblical double standards. What's obnoxious in a private hotel, however, becomes inappropriate and unconstitutional in state-run lodgings."

The ACLJ reminded the FFRF, however, that the Supreme Court has ruled that "adults should be able to withstand 'speech they find disagreeable,' without imagining that the Establishment Clause is violated every time they 'experience a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views.'"

"There is no coercion," Sekulow insisted. "There is no proselytizing happening here. Instead, it's once again clear that those holding themselves out to be freethinkers are threatening smaller institutions with constitutional claims that would fall flat in court. FFRF is in the business of making threats because they know that any time they go to court, they always lose."

Gideons International, which distributes Bibles around the world, has sometimes faced challenges when it comes to handing out literature at public schools.

In a message to the The Christian Post back in June 2014, Gideons Director of Communications Jeff Pack said that the group always follows the directives set out by the institutions.

"From our standpoint, what work we do is through the school board and we follow whatever direction they give us. That's our standard practice," Pack said.

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