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Navy Clears the Decks for Bible Regs

By Tony Perkins

This summer, the U.S. Navy made plenty of waves with its decision to pull Gideon Bibles from its lodge room drawers. After the public outcry was too much to ignore, branch leaders walked back the decision, choosing to reinstate the books until they could agree on a final policy.

Now, over the next couple of weeks, bases like Patuxent River Naval Air Station are going room by room to put the Bibles back after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanded them purged. At Pax River, a base chaplain had been ordered to box all the books up — until this month, when the Gideons plan to have a special dedication ceremony.

While the Navy charts its next moves, members of our Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition (led in part by FRC’s own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin) sent a strong letter to the Secretaries of the Defense Department and the Navy urging the branch to stop its censorship. “… (T)he Navy should direct NEXCOM to allow Gideon Bibles in all facilities for which the Gideons are willing to make Bible donations. Furthermore, this should be a DOD-wide policy — not one merely put in place for Navy facilities,” the leaders write. “We understand that some may claim to take offense at the presence of Gideon Bibles in the guest rooms. That mere fact does not constitute a constitutional problem to be fixed. As the Supreme Court recently observed in Town of Greece v. Galloway: Offense, however, does not equate to coercion. Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views…”

“No person is compelled to read a Gideon Bible that has been left in a guest room, and guests with no interest in the Bible can just leave the Gideon Bible in the drawer unopened.” To make its point about the military’s proud religious liberty tradition, the Coalition even included a photo of the World War II-era Bible inscribed by President Franklin Roosevelt and given directly to our troops. It’s time for the Navy to stop listening to the forces of political correctness and keep the First Amendment afloat!

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)


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