Navy Does About Face, Orders Return of Bibles to Guest Rooms

By:  Dave Bohon
Navy Does About Face, Orders Return of Bibles to Guest Rooms

Following a firestorm of protest from conservative Christian leaders and military organizations, the U.S. Navy has reversed its decision to remove Bibles from guest rooms on naval bases.

As reported August 13 by The New American, in March the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) claiming that two service members had complained that Gideon Bibles had been present in every Navy guest room they had stayed in over their decades of service, a situation FFRF found in need of remedy. What was more troubling to the FFRF was that no other religious texts, such as the Book of Mormon or the Islamic Koran, was ever available — only Bibles.

Claiming that the presence of religious materials violates the First Amendment's prohibition of the government's establishment of a religion, the FFRF demanded that the NEXCOM sanitize the Navy's guest lodges of the offending Bibles.

In June NEXCOM responded to the letter by ordering the removal of all Bibles by September 1 from the 34 lodge locations and 24,000 Navy Gateway Inns and Suites guest rooms on Navy bases around the world.

But through the efforts of such groups as the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, the Navy's cave-in to the FFRF received wide publicity, leading to a barrage of requests from individuals and organizations for the Navy to reconsider its Bible ban.

On August 15 Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces, reported that Navy higher-ups had indeed decided to reverse the order and have the Gideon Bibles returned to the guest rooms. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ryan Perry told Stars and Stripes via e-mail that the decision to remove the Bibles, along with the Navy's religious accommodation policies with “regard to the placement of religious materials are under review. While that review is under way, religious materials removed from Navy Lodge rooms will be returned.”

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