A new directive from the Navy has raised concerns about the potential removal of Bibles from Navy lodge rooms and guest quarters, according to Fox News. These lodges are hotels located on naval bases for members of the Navy, usually used when they receive new permanent change of station orders.
The directive states “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.”
Gideons International, known for placing Bibles in hotels around the world, has long donated Bibles for Navy lodge rooms. Organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers maintain that allowing the Gideons to place Bibles in military hotels is “a special privilege for Christianity.” FFRF calls the new rule a “FFRF Victory!”
In 2012, The Blaze reported the Air Force instituted a similar process to remove Bibles from Air Force hotel rooms. After a loud and clear denunciation from the general public, the Air Force rescinded the policy. In 2011, according to Fox News, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center instituted a related restriction for “wounded, ill, and injured partners in care” that “(n)o religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” The medical care center also reversed this rule after Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, highlighted the violation of religious freedom.
Chaplain Ron Crews, retired U.S. Army Reserved and now the executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, criticized the move:
“There is nothing wrong with allowing the Gideons to place Bibles in Navy lodges, which it has done for decades at no cost to the Navy. Our service men and women are often away from home, sometimes for long periods of time. It’s perfectly constitutional and legal to allow the Gideons to provide, at their own expense, this source of comfort for service men and women of faith.”
For more than 200 years the United States has recognized and actively protected the rights of military men and women to live out their faith while serving their county. Ensuring military personnel have such freedom safeguards our nation’s commitment to religious liberty.
UPDATE: Navy officials reversed this policy in an announcement August 14, saying that religious materials would be returned and allowed to remain while the procedure on bibles in Navy Lodges is reviewed.