Atheists come out of foxholes to fight Navy bibles

FFRF sent out a nation wide action alert on August 15 in response to the Navy appearing to renege on its decision to remove Christian bibles from Navy-run lodges following an FFRF complaint. The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) issued a quiet directive on June 19 in response to a complaint by FFRF, ordering removal of religious material from Navy-run lodges by Sept. 1. After receiving a flood of complaints from theocratic groups, the Navy told Stars and Stripes it had ordered bibles returned pending evaluation.

FFRF’s Action Alert urged members to voice their support for the Navy’s original decision to remain neutral toward religion.

FFRF had overwhelming responses, many by “atheists in foxholes” or former “atheist in foxholes.”

Here is a selection of some of the responses. Some names have been omitted and some responses excerpted.


Dear Director Bockleman,

I served in the active USNR in 1945-1946 and also in the Reserve from 1946 to 1950, with Honorable discharge.  I wish to protest the Navy's support of placing bibles or any other religious material of any sort in any facility associated with the Navy.  And also, to extend this further while I'm at it, to protest any religious proselytizing on any occasion by Navy personnel under color of uniform.  Long-held readings of our Constitution clearly preclude the Navy from participating in such activity, it should cease immediately, and in fact it should nave not been countenanced at any time in my view. And by the way I have held such a view for the past 75-odd years.

Sincerely,

Kennan C. Herrick (Jr.)

(Son of the late Kennan C. Herrick, also an Honorable Navy veteran.)

California


 

Dear Director Bockelman,

As a retired Master Chief Petty Officer with 24 plus years of active Naval service and as a retired Navy Civil Service employee with 18 years of service, I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms.

As an atheist/nonbeliever, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive.

Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.


 

My dear Michael Bockelman,

As a Proud American atheist, and on behalf of my deceased atheist Husband, Capt. Maurice Franklin "Bo" Smith, a Naval/Marine fighter pilot, Corsairs, VMF223, South Pacific, WWII, I am asking you to honor the memories of the many atheist, agnostic, non-religious fighting men.

My dear Husband Bo was 6'4", 223 pounds. When he contracted Malaria in Bouganville, he weighed 120 pounds and kept on fighting. 86 combat missions.

Many of his buddies were atheists. It is so unfair to the myriad of more and more new younger recruits who are in this nonreligious category, that they (unconstitutionally) be subject to one of the most biased, evil, torturous, hedonist books ever written. The Christian bible.

Please honor my husband's memory and the many, many others who sacrificed for The United States of America and the FREEDOM she stands for.

Most Sincerely,

Brigit Clarke-Smith, California


 

Dear Mr. Bockelman,

As a USCG Lt Jg. for 3 years I felt proud to help our great country protect itself and other worthy countries. As a non-believer it never occurred to me that any governmental agency would promote any religion whatsoever. Thus to find out the US Navy has been providing Christian bibles in its hotel rooms is a disgrace. Every person has a right to believe as they see fit and not be harassed by biased influence.

I expect to hear shortly that the US Navy has realized its error and has removed the bibles.

Yours truly,

James B. Gordon


 

Dear Director Bockelman,

I am a disabled veteran of the U.S. military, and I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As an atheist, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for demonstrating that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.

Marvin (Mark) Jabin


Dear Director Bockelman,

No doubt you're getting a shrill earful from the Christian majority concerning Bibles in the Navy Lodge.  As a retired Navy F-14 pilot, I can tell you that not all Navy service members believe that the Bible is a truthful, or even righteous, text. Just think about the conduct of the Old Testament god with respect to the entire earth's inhabitants at the time of The Flood, or how he treated every Egyptian family because the Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites.  In any case, our country is founded on the principle of religious freedom and that the government should remain neutral toward all religions.  Clearly, distributing (thereby favoring) the Christian Bible violates this crucial constitutional tenet.  Just because it's a tradition, does not make it right.

I hope you will stand your ground and do the right thing. History will reflect very well on you if you support the separation of church and state and refrain from religious favoritism. Thank you for your consideration to the opinion of one Navy veteran.

Very respectfully,

Michael Schimpf

LCDR (Ret) USN


Dear Sir/Madam,

As an Atheist American veteran (Combat Command B, 2nd Armored Division, Mainz, Germany), I am offended by the placing of Christian bibles in Navy- run Lodges. The implication is more than obvious: The U.S. navy supports the belief that Christianity is better than other religions as well as being better than no religion. Both ideas are false and insulting to many of us in our very diverse society. Let’s stop equating patriotism with Christianity. Respect all of us and take a stand against religious intolerance by keeping Christian bibles out of Navy-run lodges. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Mr. Madison Arnold

New York City

PS: Instead of bibles, how about putting copies of the Constitution in Navy lodges. That is the document we all served in the military to defend.


 

Dear Director Bockelman,

I served in the military during the Vietnam War.  I completely agree with your original decision to remove protestant bibles from Navy Lodge guest rooms.  Close to twenty percent of American adults identify as non-religious.  I am one of those.  Sadly the Supreme Court, in Greece vs. Galloway, has recently relaxed the historic rules of church/state separation that our wise founders rightly instituted.  In the aftermath of that ill-conceived decision, we see local governments burdened with requests to include many religions and worldviews in government functions, which should be focused on fixing potholes, maintaining infrastructure, and licensing various business activities.

Do you really want the Navy to suffer the same fate?  Are you prepared to be pestered to include in your lodges space for the Book of Mormon, the Hindu Bahagavad Gita, the Qur’an, the sacred writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the various texts of Buddhists and Wiccans, the Satanic Bible, perhaps the Roman Catholic version of the Bible and many others?

Your original decision to remove the protestant Bibles was correct and in agreement with our constitution that seeks to avoid having the government take the side of any religion.  I suggest you stick with your original decision.

Thank you.

Timothy L Rauhouse


 

I am a veteran of the U.S. Army (active duty 1963-1966) and I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. I'm part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious - the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I'm deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there. I believe Bibles in hotel rooms sends a message that I need to be converted, that I am wrong in my non-belief. 

My alma mater for a master's degree, Iowa State University, removed Bibles from the Student Union hotel. When I trained in ROTC at the University of Connecticut, our commanding officer told us we were defending the rights of those who protested our activities in Vietnam. We were also defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive.

Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations remain secular. Thank you for demonstrating that the Navy, like Iowa State, is willing to stand by the separation of government and religion. None of us want to live in a theocracy and the Navy has taken appropriate action to stop theocracy from gaining a foothold in this great country. 


 

Dear Director Bockelman,

I am writing to you as an honorably discharged Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. I want to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As a non Christian, I’m offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that the hotel owners (in this case, my government) support and encourage a specific religion, Christianity. Please consider how someone of another belief, or no belief, would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.

Sincerely,

Richard Doberstein


 

Dear Director Bockelman,

As a retired judge who is a bit familiar with the United States Constitution and strongly supports the notion of separation of church and state, I appreciate the pressures imposed upon you by Christians to keep bibles in all Navy Lodge guest rooms.  I also appreciate your decision that such "propaganda" is an affront to the notion of such separation and your decision to follow constitutional dictates was a bold one.

I therefore would sincerely appreciate your re-imposing your decision to remove Christian bibles from the rooms.  Aside from the somewhat silly idea that such availability of the bibles behooves our nation, the placement is as much of an affront to non-Christians as would be a Qu'ran or tract preaching atheism similarly placed.  It is simply inappropriate and, most of all, unnecessary.

I appreciate your consideration of my comments.


 

Dear Director Bockelman,

I am a family member of a veteran of the U.S. Navy. 

I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As a nonbeliever, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive.

Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers.

Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.

Barbara J Mathison


 

Dear Director Bockelman,

I am the wife of a retired Navy Chief, and mother of a newly retired Navy Chief,  and I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms.  I speak for my husband and son in voicing the opinion that it is deeply offensive to find a bible in a hotel room provided by the United States military, thereby conveying the message that "Christianity" is the official religion of the United States Navy. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.


 

Director Bockelman,

Thank you for taking action and finally removing the bibles from Navy accommodations. My daughter is an active duty Navy sailor and I watch closely what the department does. As a non-believer myself, I am encouraged to see that you have ended the preference of religion over non-religion and specifically Christianity over any other belief. I cannot speak for my daughter, but I am very grateful that you have ended this practice. I know you're probably getting grief about this minor issue, but thank you for standing up for our first amendment rights.

Keep up the great work at keeping America protected!

Sincerely

Eric Tawney, Ohio.


 

Dear Mr. Bockelman,

First, let me introduce myself.  I am a U.S. Army veteran from the Korean Conflict.  (No, no, never refer to the Korean War.  It was the Korean Conflict or Korean Police Action, do you hear me?).  May I ask that you DO remove Bibles from Navy Lodge rooms because the Bible can cause great confusion for our military personnel who are confronted by it in their rooms.  For example, let's say a Bible is in a room, and one of our military persons opens it up and happens to come to a verse in Leviticus which reads, "If a man lies with another man as he does with a woman, both have committed an abomination, they shall be put to death, and their blood shall be upon them."  The Bible thus teaches us to murder gay individuals, and that seems to be an horrific way to meet the LGBT situation.

Then the serviceman comes to the Ten Commandments, and reads that we shall honor the Sabbath Day and not work thereon.  Yet if he goes off base on a Sunday to a grocery store to buy some food, there all the staff is working on Sunday! And he goes to Walmart on the Sabbath Day, and the entire employee staff is working there, too. Confusion, right?

And then he reads another of the Commandments that says Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife--but does this mean it's OK to covet thy neighbor's husband? 

And then he goes to I Timothy and reads that women shall not be permitted to teach, shall remain silent, and be in submission.  And now he is flabbergasted the U.S. Episcopal Church has selected Katharine Jefferts Schori to be its National Presiding Bishop! I myself do not want our military personnel to have their minds cluttered by such confusing language from the Bible, and I believe our servicemen would be more calm and effective as servicemen if the Bibles were kept out of their rooms, would you not agree?                                                                                         

Sincerely,                                 

Theodore M. Utchen


 

We (my husband and I) were very happy to hear that the Navy had decided to discontinue putting Bibles in Naval operated hotel rooms.

But, now, we have found out that that decision has been rescinded. Please, please go back to no Bibles! I ask this partially because my husband, when attending the Naval Academy many years ago was forced to proclaim a religion. His family had no religion and the only connection he had to any religion was that he grew up in a mostly Catholic community. So, that being the religion he knew the most about he said he was Catholic. Too late he found out that at the Naval Academy Catholics were forced to get up earliest and march to the chapel on Sunday mornings. He found out that if he had claimed to be Buddhist that he would have been allowed to leave the Academy Campus on Sunday mornings. He tried to change his religion to Buddhist but was not allowed to do so.

While Bibles in hotel rooms are not as coercive as requiring attendance at Sunday services, they are still offensive to those of us who have no religion. What would many people think if they found the Koran in their hotel room? To those of us with no religion, there is no difference whether we find the Koran or a Bible (or any other religious propaganda) in our hotel rooms.

Please go back to religious neutrality and remove all bibles from all hotel rooms.


Director Bockelman,

As a former naval officer (LCDR, MC), I am writing to you out of concern for a naval policy which permits placement of Christian bibles in naval hotel rooms or other facilities. This governmental and taxpayer- supported activity is offensive to those of us who believe that religious promotion has no place in government institutions.  In case you hadn't noticed, one may no longer assume that all Americans are devotees of the Christian religion...an ever-increasing number count themselves as members of other faiths, or as agnostics or atheists.  A common (and especially irritating) response by Christian advocates is that, " If you don't like it, ignore it." Impossible...like finding something vile in your sandwich, but attempting to convince yourself that it's savory, so eat up! This official religious favoritism would be more befitting the Taliban than the US government. Please curtail the religious propaganda.

Erwin B. Clahassey, MD

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