MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Extension has removed all of the Gideon Bibles from its conference center guest rooms at the urging of an atheist activist organization.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) states that it received a complaint last November from a visitor to the university’s Lowell Center, who noticed the Bible in their room.
The organization then sent a letter to university officials, asserting that the placement of the Gideon Bibles violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
“It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a government entity cannot promote, advance or otherwise endorse religion,” the letter stated. “Permitting members of outside religious groups the privilege of placing their religious literature in public university guest rooms constitutes state endorsement and advancement of these Christian publications.”
FFRF contended that if visitors want to read the Bible, they can bring their own copy during their stay, or obtain one from the library. It demanded that all Bibles be removed from the premises, and that a written response be provided regarding the matter.
University of Wisconsin Chancellor Ray Cross then replied to the letter, providing a brief notice that the Bibles would be removed as requested.
“After carefully reviewing your concern, we have decided to remove the Gideon Bibles from all guest rooms,” he wrote. “Thank you for making us aware of this concern.”
FFRF has now applauded the decision, stating that it has been working to have the Bibles removed from the campus since the 1980’s. It says that it has also had issue with Bibles in hotel rooms, and has asked the hotel industry to offer “Bible-free” rooms.
“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,” Co-President Dan Barker commented in a news release this week.
In the meantime, the organization advises that it has been offering its supporters stickers to place on Gideon Bibles, including one that reads “Warning! Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life!”
However, some are expressing disappointment that the University of Wisconsin so easily caved to FFRF’s demands that the Bibles be removed.
“How thin-skinned have we become in our country that we can be offended because a Bible is placed in a drawer in a room? If you disagree with the Bible and find it to be a farce or fairy tale, then just ignore it,” Jeff Shergalis, assistant pastor at Madison Baptist Church, told Christian News Network.
“I have never been offended when in the lobby of a doctor’s office I see a copy of Mother Goose stories,” he continued. “It seems strange that people who claim to be so intellectually superior that they are above believing the Bible are so easily offended by it.”
“Many of our founding fathers read the Bible, quoted the Bible, and believed the Bible,” Shergalis added. “It seems very sad when a city that is named for a president who declared a ‘National Day of Prayer and Fasting’ is so quick to remove God and His Word from its facilities.”