The Freedom From Religious Foundation (FFRF) has convinced an Illinois university to remove Gideon Bibles from its hotel rooms after complaining that their concealed presence constituted unlawful “proselytization.”
FFRF, which considers itself as an organization of freethinkers, atheists and agnostics, has made headlines over the years for removing “In God We Trust” from currency, chaplains from college football teams, the Pledge of Allegiance from classrooms and the National Day of Prayer from public school campuses. Now the anti-Christian group is targeting the eradication of Bibles from hotel rooms.
This lastest attack on Christianity in America began last month after FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor delivered a speech titled “Women without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters” at Northern Illinois University (NIU), according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). While lodging for the night in the city of DeKalb with her husband, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, the two caused a stir after finding a Gideons Bible resting in the drawer of their room at the Holmes Student Center Hotel.
“They were shocked, horrified, and dismayed to discover a copy of the Bible — placed by a Christian group, the Gideons, in their hotel room,” ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow reported. “They unbelievably claimed to be ‘proselytized in the privacy of their own bedrooms.’”
The Christian legal expert failed to see how traditionally keeping a book in the drawer of a hotel room for those desiring to read it could be interpreted as forcing religious views on occupants.
“Who knew a closed Bible’s mere presence qualified as proselytizing?” Sekulow posed. “Yet, they called the Bible ‘obnoxious’ and claimed that the mere presence of the Bible in a state-run lodging was ‘inappropriate and unconstitutional.’ Absurd.”
Know the law … and the dictionary
Based in Washington, D.C., the attorney specializing in religious freedom argues that FFRF’s leaders are not only ignorant of the principles within the United States Constitution, but oblivious of the definition of the word “proselytizing.” He pointed to the letter written and submitted by FFRF to officials at Northern Illinois University.
“Providing bibles to Holmes Student Center Hotel guests sends the message that NIU endorses the religious texts,” FFRF expressed in the letter five days after the co-presidents stayed at the hotel. “Including bibles sends the message to non-Christian and non-religious guests that they should read the bible, and specifically the version of the bible provided: the Gideon Bible. Certainly, if guests want to read this religious text during their stay, they can bring their own copy or access any of the numerous churches or libraries near the university."
Sekulow explains that the arguments made in the letter are irrational and unfounded.
“No one is making any guest open the Bible,” the head of ACLJ asserts. “No one is making them read it. In fact, the university is not ‘providing bibles;’ it is allowing a Christian group to place literature, the Bible, in hotel rooms much like a pizzeria may leave coupons.”
He goes on to say that FFRF isn’t arguing anything new and that its flawed claims have already been rejected in the nation’s highest court numerous times over the years.
“I’ve been arguing religious speech cases just like this one for decades at the Supreme Court,” Sekulow shared. “The university is free to allow religious texts to be placed just as it is permitted to allow other literature to be placed in its hotel rooms. It can allow all or none. FFRF is simply wrong on the law.”
The nationally acclaimed attorney points out further that FFRF has failed to make its claim on another account.
“FFRF claims the Bible should be banned because they find it ‘obnoxious,’” he notes. “Yet, in reality, the Supreme Court has stated just the opposite.”
Sekulow made his case on two grounds.
“It has held that adults should be able to withstand ‘speech they find disagreeable,’ without imagining that the Establishment Clause is violated every time they ‘experience a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views,’” the host of Jay Sekulow Live! informed. “By extension, requiring the elimination of Bibles in hotel rooms owned by public universities would, as the court has found in other contexts, ‘lead the law to exhibit a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.’”
Resorting to threats?
Instead of pleading its case in court, FFRF has reportedly resorted to threatening businesses, individuals, schools and organizations because their legal arguments lack validity, according to Sekulow.
“There is no coercion … There is no proselytizing happening here,” the seasoned attorney insists. “Instead, it’s once again clear that those holding themselves out to be freethinkers are threatening smaller institutions with constitutional claims that would fall flat in court. FFRF is in the business of making threats because they know that any time they go to court, they always lose. The Constitution is not on their side. And with these latest shenanigans, neither is common sense.”
Despite having any legal backing to its claims, FFRF managed to get NIU officials to acquiesce to its intimidating demands out of fear … just like other universities before it.
“[W]ithin a day of FFRF’s fatally flawed letter, NIU backed down from these anti-Christian bullies and announced they’d be removing all Bibles from the rooms — something they should not feel threatened and bullied to do,” Sekulow reported. “According to FFRF, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Iowa have similarly removed Bibles from hotel guest rooms after being threatened by these angry atheists.”
In another attempt to silence religious free speech, the atheist group now sells its own “FFRF Bible Warning Labels” donning the poison symbol and the message: “Warning: Literal Belief in this Book May Endanger Your Health and Life.” The group encourages fellow atheists to affix these to Bibles they find and therefore deface private property. But ACLJ is focusing its efforts on getting Bibles back in the three universities’ hotel rooms.
In response to NIU, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Iowa agreeing to remove Bibles from hotel guest rooms, ACLJ is sending officials at the schools legal letters informing them that FFRF’s claims — asserting that the presence of Bibles in within guest hotel rooms is unconstitutional — are not only absurd, but unfounded and categorically wrong.
“FFRF must once again be stopped from poisoning our society with their flawed legal arguments and bullying tactics,” Sekulow concluded. “Christian groups like the Gideons have placed Bibles in hotel rooms for decades. It doesn’t violate the law.”