Iowa State removing Bibles from hotel guest rooms
AMES – Iowa State University is removing Bibles from a campus hotel’s guest rooms, after a watchdog group argued that it was an illegal endorsement of Christianity by the state-run institution.
Freedom From Religion Foundation asked management at Hotel Memorial Union in a Jan. 29 letter to remove the Gideon Bibles, The Des Moines Register reported.
“If a state-run university has a policy of providing a Christian religious text to guests, that policy facilitates illegal endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over nonreligion,” wrote Patrick Elliott, the organization’s attorney, to hotel director Richard Reynolds.
The Bibles will be removed from the hotel by March 1, Reynolds wrote in a response. They will be placed in the Memorial Union’s Browsing Library for lending, where they will be available to any guest.
“What we’re doing is trying to be respectful of individuals who may have differing opinions on this,” said John McCarroll, director of university relations. “We believe that’s the right solution at this time.”
Bibles in the hotel’s guest rooms predate when the university took ownership of the business in 2003. It was previously run by a nonprofit group.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation, said she was delighted by the hotel’s decision.
“We can all sleep easier knowing secularism is being honored at our public universities,” she said in a statement.
Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national group with about 150 members in Iowa. In 2013, a campus inn at the University of Wisconsin-Madison also agreed to remove Bibles from its rooms following a request from the group.