SAN DIEGO, February 2, 2014 —Hotel rooms and Gideon Bibles. They go together like franks and beans, baseball and hotdogs, George and Gracie; a time honored American tradition. For years, vacationers and businessmen have felt comfortable with this familiarity. After all, a Bible in a hotel room drawer or nightstand blends in with the air conditioning, color TV and complimentary shampoo. Up until now, there never seemed to be a reason to view the Gideon gift as an assault upon liberty or a yellow light warning that life as we know it is about to change. It was more like a book sitting in a room, something people could read or ignore.
But at Lowell Center, a lodge owned by the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Madison, the Bible is being battled as if it is one of those disguised alien monsters from Men In Black.
It seems a lodge guest was shocked and flabbergasted upon the discovery of an actual Bible in the hotel room. Fortunately, this same guest recovered in time to call The Freedom From Religion Foundation.
FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott gave an all too familiar argument based upon a popular interpretation of our Constitution’s Establishment Clause:
“When a government entity like the Lowell Center allows a distribution of religious material to visitors, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message, in this case a Christian message.”
Gideons International is a Christian society dedicated to placing free copies of the Bible into as many hands as possible. These gifts are also made available to hotels for their occupants to enjoy. Such distribution has gone on since the year 1899.
Elliott does not appreciate their gestures. “As you may know, the mission of the Gideons is to ‘win the lost for Christ.’ The Gideon’s [sic] efforts to proselytize have frequently brought about conflict with non-religious persons and persons from minority faiths.”
His words made sense to the University of Wisconsin.They wasted no time removing Bibles from all 137 rooms.
In their own way, Freedom From Religion Foundation is every bit as devoted as the Gideons. They are an atheist/agnostic organization dedicated to the idea that one cannot truly be a “free thinker” and a believer in God at the same time. At the very least, belief in God makes you a little less of a free thinker. While various religions espouse different deities, the God of the Bible seems to particularly make their hair stand on end.
To their credit, FFRF participates in debates with Christian apologists. In that arena, free speech is cherished as college students and other audiences get a chance to hear both sides.
Paradoxically, in the world of litigation, freedom has very little to do with Freedom From Religion’s agenda. Evidently in their minds freedom from religion means slowly but surely erasing freedom of religion.
Co-President Dan Barker said, “We atheists and agnostics do not appreciate paying high prices for lodging, only to find Gideon Bibles in our hotel rooms, sometimes prominently displayed, knowing they contain instructions, for instance, to kill ‘infidels’ and ‘blasphemers,’ among other primitive and dangerous teachings,”
Barker’s statement displays ignorance about Biblical law. Elliott’s statement displays ignorance about American law.
In fact, there is no command in the Bible to kill all infidels. There was a command in early books of the Old Testament to wage war against specific evil nations of Canaan which sacrificed human babies to their fertility gods.
And although capital punishment within the community of ancient Israel was prescribed for a variety of sins including blasphemy, monetary penalties could be exacted as a substitute. It was called a “ransom.” Apparently a ransom could be offered for any capital offense but cold blooded murder. As Moses wrote in the book of Numbers, “Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die.”
It would be nice if those trying to remove the Bible from hotel rooms were a little more familiar with the pages inside.
It would also be refreshing if they actually read the Constitution. Here are the actual words of the Establishment Clause:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise there-of.”
Exactly how does a Bible in a hotel room mean the government is establishing one religion? On the other hand, does the removal of a Bible interfere with the free exercise of religion? Self appointed “free thinkers” might want to ponder that question.
The tax argument is also an interesting one. Christians pay taxes like everybody else. Some of that revenue pays for all kinds of teaching in our public schools that fly in the face of the Bible, from evolution, to a positive embracing of same-sex marriage. How interesting that this “wall of separation” never seems to work both ways. In any event, Mr. Barker’s taxes are not paying for the Bibles themselves, the Gideons are.
What will atheists target next? How about if somebody sneezes on the street and hears the words “God bless you!”
Supposing somebody stubs his toe and cries out, “Jesus Christ!” Actually, they’ll probably let that one go.
Perhaps the grandest victory of all would be to make the letter T illegal on all books, magazines and computers in public libraries. It looks like a cross after all.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious obvious.
Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and columnist. Information about his radio show can be found at bobsiegel.net.
Fox News.com contributed to the news portions of this article.