Navy Reverses Decision to Remove Bibles From Rooms, Reviews Policy

A member of the U.S. Navy reads from a small Bible during an Easter service in Kandahar April 4, 2010.
A member of the U.S. Navy reads from a small Bible during an Easter service in Kandahar April 4, 2010. | (Photo: Reuters/Tim Wimborne)

The U.S. Navy has reversed its decision to remove Bibles from Navy rooms, and has noted that it would be reviewing its policy. Navy Exchange Service Command officials had previously said they would be removing all religious literature, following complaints from an atheist group.

"That decision and our religious accommodation policies with regard to the placement of religious materials are under review," Navy spokesman Lt. Chika Onyekanne said in a statement. "While that review is underway, religious materials removed from Navy Lodge rooms will be returned."

The Navy's decision to put Bibles back in its lodge and guest rooms came on Thursday, Navy Times reported. The reversal follows backlash from religious groups who had asked why the Navy is giving in to demands from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which filed a complaint against the Bibles earlier this year.

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"A Bible in a hotel room is no more illegal than a chaplain in the military. They are there for those who want them," Chaplain Col. Ron Crews, USAR retired, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said in a statement earlier this week.

"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. Our service men and women are often away from home, sometimes for long periods of time. It's perfectly constitutional and legal to allow the Gideons to provide, at their own expense, this source of comfort for service men and women of faith."

FFRF had argued that the presence of the Bible in Navy rooms "amounts to a government endorsement of that religious text."

The atheist group had praised the initial decision to remove religious literature from such rooms, with FFRF representative Sam Grover telling Fox News' Todd Starnes in an email:

"FFRF is pleased to learn that NEXCOM has taken seriously its constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion as a representative of our federal government."

NEXCOM clarified in its latest statement that managers had historically been allowed to place Gideons Bibles in guest rooms free of charge, but now all requests to distribute religious materials would have to go through the chaplain's office of each installation.

"This will allow the commanding officer to determine, in accordance with personnel readiness and military regulations, whether the materials will be accepted and how they will be handled and distributed," the statement read.

Navy Times noted that there are 40 Navy Lodges in 16 states and five countries around the world, where active, reserve and retired sailors and their families are offered discounted hotel rooms.

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