Missouri National Guard threatened with lawsuit for displaying Bibles

(Photo: Dave Edmonds)

The Missouri National Guard was threatened with a lawsuit this week after a humanist organization took issue with the station's display of Gideon Bibles in its lobby.

A humanist enlistee reported that he felt pressured to take one of the camouflage-covered Bibles, although no one offered a Bible to him.

The American Humanist Association member, who has not been identified, said that other recruits were taking copies of the Bible, and that he felt he should take one too.

"Many people had taken the religious literature including recruits as well as those beginning the enlistment procedures," he said in a letter to the Army Times. "I was not approached by anyone with the literature, though it was quite prominently displayed on the shelf."

Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen of the Office of the Secretary of Defense said that the display of religious materials in military stations does not violate any laws.

"Non-Federal entities may request and when authorized in writing by the unit commander may place secular or religious literature for use (including, but not limited to, Bibles, pamphlets, tracts, and texts) in a location on the base or recruiting station designated by the commander," he said in a statement.

"Should the presence of any provided material adversely impact the accomplishment of the mission, the commander has the discretion to remove all literature that threatens good order and discipline.

Appignani Humanist Legal Center lawyer Monica Miller, who represents the enlistee, said that her client believed the Bibles were being offered by the military. Appignani is the legal arm of the American Humanist Association.

The enlistee also explained why he didn't voice his concerns while he was at the processing station.

"I did not speak to anyone as not to cause any problems that day," he said. "Enlisting for the National Guard was important to me. The last thing I would do is ruin that by allowing myself to be discriminated against. Those Bibles would not be there if a prejudice didn't exist."

Miller said her office has not received a formal response, and expects rectification of the problem in two weeks "to avoid legal action."