In November 2013, a concerned citizen informed FFRF that the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Lowell Center, a large conference center on the UW-Madison campus, contained a copy of the Gideon Bible in each of its 137 guest rooms. The seven story Lowell Center is capable of hosting events of up to 400 people and was used by the UW student group Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics to host a freethought festival in March.
FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott took action by sending a letter of complaint to the UW-Extension. In the letter, Elliott observed that the bibles were the only literature offered to guests in the rooms. “When a government entity like the Lowell Center allows distribution of religious material to visitors, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message, in this case a Christian message,” he added.
On Nov. 25, 2013, the UW-Extension sent a response indicating that after reviewing FFRF’s letter, all bibles would be removed from guest rooms by December 1. Elliott noted that this was a solid victory for state/church separation. “While private hotels may choose to put any type of literature they want in their guest rooms, state-run colleges have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion.”
FFRF had complained about the bible in the 1980’s and 1990’s. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said it is satisfying to see this longstanding violation remedied.