Following outcry from Christian and veterans organizations, the U.S. Navy has ordered that Bibles booted from lodge guest rooms be restored while it reviews its policy on the availability of religious material, reports state.
As previously reported, in March of this year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) advising that two unidentified service members contacted them to report that “every Navy lodging room they have stayed in during decades of service contained a Bible” but rarely other religious or non-religious books. The organization asserted that such practice is unconstitutional and shows favoritism toward Christianity.
“Providing Bibles to guests in Navy-run hotels amounts to a government endorsement of that religious text,” the letter stated. “Including Bibles sends the message to non-Christian and non-religious guests that they should read the Bible… Such a practice alienates non-Christian guests whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the Bibles, including the 20% of the U.S. population that is nonreligious.”
Following receipt of the letter, NEXCOM issued a directive—which just recently was made public—that Bibles currently in hotel rooms on naval bases must be removed by September 1st.
“The Navy Lodge General Manager should advise the Installation Commanding Officer of our intention to work through the chaplain’s office to determine what [the] installation policy is and the method to remove religious material currently in the guest rooms,” it read.
It also noted that the “Commanding Officer [will] determine, in accordance with personnel readiness and military regulations, whether [future] materials will be accepted and how they will be handled and distributed.”
The Bibles had been placed through the years by various groups, including Gideons International.
But now, spokepersons for the Navy are advising that NEXCOM made the decision without consulting senior officials, and have directed that any Bibles that have been removed from guest rooms be replaced while Navy policy is reviewed by the proper hierarchy.
“That decision and our religious accommodation policies with regard to the placement of religious materials are under review,” Cmdr. Ryan Perry told Stars and Stripes. “While that review is under way, religious materials removed from Navy Lodge rooms will be returned.”
The restoration of the Bibles is being credited to outcry from religious and veterans organizations according to the Navy Times. John Wells of Military Veterans Advocacy was among those who wrote to the Navy to state that the removal of the Bibles violated the rights of those who wished to read them.
“Depriving us of access to religious solace via the Scriptures would appear to be discriminatory and anti-Christian,” he stated.
Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association (AFA) likewise counted the decision as a victory.
“This is great news! I know thousands of AFA supporters voiced strong objection to the purging of Bibles by the Navy from their lodges,” he stated. “We must be alert to what the secularists are doing inside the military but this reversal proves that those who believe in religious freedom can make a difference when we take action.”