Building on its success removing bibles from University of Wisconsin hotel rooms in December in Madison, the Freedom From Religion Foundation scored another victory for secularism on an Iowa public college campus.
The Memorial Union at Iowa State University in Ames agreed to remove Gideon bibles from its hotel rooms on March 1.
FFRF received a complaint about the religious propaganda on state property. “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,” said Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott in a Jan. 29 letter to the university. “Permitting members of outside religious groups the privilege of placing their religious literature in public university guest rooms also constitutes state endorsement and advancement of religion.”
Elliott added, “Individuals, not the state, must determine what religious texts are worth reading.”
Union Director Richard Reynolds responded Feb. 13: “The concern you raised about the availability of bibles in the guest rooms of the Memorial Union has been taken under advisement and, effective March 1, 2014, the bibles will be removed from the hotel rooms.”
“We’re delighted to see reason and the Constitution prevailing. We can all sleep easier knowing secularism is being honored at our public universities,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
“Many nonbelievers greatly object to its primitive and dangerous instructions to beat children, kill homosexuals, atheists and infidels and that it sanctions the subjugation of women, who are scapegoated for bringing sin and death into the world,” Gaylor added.
“Imagine the uproar if someone found a Quran or atheistic literature such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in their state-supported hotel room. Government can’t take sides on the religious debate.”
FFRF’s victory received widespread Iowa and national coverage. Elliott appeared on national Fox News coverage and Gaylor was invited to debate Sean Hannity on Fox. (View the video on YouTube with the search terms “Gaylor FFRF Hannity.”)
John McCarroll, executive director of university relations, told WCCI News 8 in Des Moines: “It’s a public institution and we do have certainly responsibilities on the separation of church and state. We thought it was appropriate to put the bibles in the browsing library.”
Gaylor noted that as long as there are a variety of books of varying views, and the library is not solely religious, that is a satisfactory resolution. FFRF, which has more than 20,000 members, represents nearly 150 in Iowa.