Atheist group succeeds in removing Bibles from US Navy guest rooms

(Photo: REUTERS / Jim Bourg)Army Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks stands in for President-elect Barack Obama during a rehearsal for the inaugural swearing-in ceremonies as he stands with Navy Yeoman 1st Class LaSean McCray (R), holding the bible and standing in for Michelle Obama, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 11, 2009. Sgt. Brooks, who has been deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan was one of more than 3,000 participants in the inaugural rehearsal.

The U.S. Navy has agreed to remove Bibles from its guest rooms following the demands of an atheist group.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the Navy Exchange Service Command saying that two "concerned members" had contacted FFRF year complaining about the presence of Bibles in every Navy-operated hotel room.

The letter noted that one complainant said he "never saw a book of Mormon or Quran" in any Navy-run lodge.

Christians are outraged with the Navy's decision and are demanding that the Bibles should not be removed from the rooms.

"A Bible in a hotel room is no more illegal than a chaplain in the military," said former chaplain Col. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, the Washington Times reported.

"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," he noted.

"It's tiresome to see senior military leaders needlessly cave in to activist groups offended by anything Christian," said Crews.

"We sincerely hope that the Navy will reverse its decision as the Air Force did in 2012 after the public spoke loudly and clearly against this sort of censorship."

Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest association of atheists and agnostics in the United States with 21,000 members nationwide. It says more than 21 percent of its members are active duty military or veterans.

The atheist group insisted in its letter that a government entity cannot in any way promote, advance, or endorse religion.

It quoted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment mandating the government to exercise "neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion."

It said that providing bibles in Navy-run hotels amounts to the government's endorsement and "unconstitutionally entangles" itself to the religious message.

In June, navy command responded to the demand with a directive that Bibles be lifted from all Navy guest rooms from September 1.

FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover considers this a victory, saying, "We're pleased that NEXCOM has taken seriously its constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion as a representative of our federal government."

He added that by removing the Bibles from Navy-lodges, the Navy has communicated the message that it is not favoring Christians over other religious beliefs.

Christians are outraged with the Navy's decision and are demanding that the Bibles should not be removed from the rooms.

Recently, government entities that operate hotels, including the Wisconsin-Extension and Iowa State University have removed Bibles from their guest rooms.

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