After a complaint from an atheist group, the Navy has directed that Bibles be removed from hotel rooms on U.S. naval bases.
According to the directive,
dated June 19 and just made public, all Bibles must be removed by Sept. 1.
"The current direction is to remove all religious material from Navy Lodge guest rooms," an email sent to a Navy chaplain from the Navy Exchange Service Command [NEXCOM] reads, according to Fox News.
"For those Navy Lodges with religious materials currently in guest rooms, the Navy Lodge General Manager will contact the Installation Chaplain's office, who will provide guidance on the removal procedure disposition of these materials," the email continued.
"The Navy Lodge General Manager should advise the Installation Commanding Officer of our intention to work through the chaplain's office to determine what installation policy is and the method to remove religious material currently in the guest rooms," the directive said.
It was signed by William D. Mayhue, the program's regional manager, and Michael Bockelman, vice president of NEXCOM and director of the Navy Lodge program.
Any religious material left by a guest in a Navy Lodge room will be dealt with as other lost-and-found materials, the directive said, though that procedure was not outlined in the letter.
NEXCOM spokeswoman Kathleen Martin told Fox News that about 40 lodges worldwide will be affected.
"We looked at our policy — and realized there wasn't a consistent policy regarding Navy Lodges," Martin said. "We decided we needed to have some consistency and be consistent with the Navy."
The Bibles were placed in the hotel rooms free of charge by the Christian group Gideons International, which places Bibles in privately owned hotel rooms as well.
The atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation had complained to the Navy that the hotels are run on government property and therefore constitute an endorsement of Christianity over other religions or over no religion.
In a letter written in March,
the group said, "Two concerned service members, one active-duty and one retired, separately contacted FFRF to report that every Navy lodging room that they have stayed in during decades of service has contained a Bible . . . We are informed that other religious or nonreligious books are rarely in guest rooms. One complainant noted that he 'never saw a Book of Mormon or Koran' in any Navy-run lodge and that he had 'been in varied Navy Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQs) with Bibles.'"
Hemant Mehta, editor of Friendly Atheist, said NEXCOM
made "the right call."
"Just because a Bible in a hotel room is common doesn't mean it's always legal," Mehta wrote, "and no one is preventing people who stay in those hotels from bringing their own Bibles or picking one up from an in-hotel library with any number of religious texts."
The American Family Association's website
is urging people to contact NEXCOM about reversing the decision, noting that the Air Force made a similar ruling about its lodges in 2012, "but after public outcry, the Air Force reversed itself."
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