US Navy decides to return Bibles to rooms

(Photo: Geri-Jean Blanchard)

Bibles will be returned to military hotels, a US Navy spokesman confirmed last week.

The books were ordered removed in June by the Navy Exchange Command (NEXCOM) after complaints from an atheist group.

There are 39 Navy Lodges in the US, available for family members and guests of Navy personnel to reside in near base. NEXCOM runs these lodges and the US Navy's lodges overseas, and Christian organisation Gideons International provides Bibles for the guest rooms.

In March, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a memo to NEXCOM requesting that the Bibles be removed. The group claimed that only having a Christian religious text in the guest rooms is unconstitutional.

"[It] demonstrates the Navy's preference for Christianity over all other religions and nonreligious sects," FFRF attorney Sam Grover said. The FFRF expressed satisfaction with the Bibles being available at the lodges' front desks.

NEXCOM acquiesced, ordering on June 19 that the Bibles be removed from the guest rooms. By August, complaints from the American Family Association (AFA), the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty, and active and retired Navy personnel led to a reversal of the policy.

Navy spokesman Ryan Perry said that the situation was being investigated, and NEXCOM made the decision to pull the Bibles without consulting higher authority.

"[NEXCOM] made a decision, without consultation of senior Navy leadership, to transfer religious materials from the Navy Lodge to the local command religious program," he said in a statement. "That decision and our religious accommodation policies with regard to the placement of religious materials are under review."

AFA officials celebrated the decision.

"We must be alert to what the secularists are doing inside the military," AFA President Tim Wildmon told Fox News. "But this reversal proves that those who believe in religious freedom can make a difference when we take action."