Freethought Today Annoys Gideons (August 1994)

Gideons International, the religious group responsible for those ubiquitous bibles, has demanded that Freethought Today stop producing bible labels.

For more than a decade Freethought Today has offered its readers two bible labels, both highly popular with freethinkers.

One label, titled “Gideon Exposed,” was inspired by Ruth Hurmence Green, author of The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible. It chronicles the barbaric accomplishments of the biblical character Gideon and urges people to read the bible for themselves.

The other label, black and yellow striped with a skull and crossbones, merely says, “Warning! Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life!”

Both labels clearly carry the Freethought Today name and address.

In their recent letter directed to Freethought Today, Gideons International claims the production of Freethought Today labels is a violation of the Gideons’ trademark, and that they “own the exclusive right to use the trademark Gideons and control the use thereof.”

The Gideons also claim that Freethought Today’s production of the labels “falls outside the First Amendment rights of free speech.”

“Obviously, we believe we have a First Amendment right to criticize both Gideon and his ‘namesake,’ the Gideon Society,” said Anne Gaylor, Foundation president and a consulting editor of Freethought Today. “Just as atheists and agnostics are criticized by religionists, we who are freethinkers may criticize in turn.”

A widespread complaint of nontheists is the presence of Gideon bibles in hotels and motels as well as the group’s illegal practice of distributing bibles in elementary public schools.

“It is tiresome and depressing for freethinkers to walk into their expensive hotel rooms and find, increasingly, an open Gideon bible” Gaylor said. “Some people have even reported to us that they find them placed on the bed pillows. This is unwelcome proselytizing. Freethinkers vent their displeasure, we’re told, by putting the bible out in the hall or dropping it in the bathtub. Some find satisfaction in placing a ‘Gideon Exposed’ label in the offending volume, which has been offered to the hotel occupant for personal use. Freethinkers are reacting to their captive role as victims of the Gideons’ proselytization.”

In 1989, Freethought Today wrote the American Hotel & Motel Association as well as a dozen of the major lodging chains, urging them to offer “bible-free rooms, just as the better establishments offer smoke-free rooms.”

Freethought Today pointed out at that time that those “who must read the bible every day surely take precautions to travel with their personal bibles,” and that the rest of us “deserve a break from mindless evangelizing when we are on vacation.”

In a letter to hoteliers, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Freethought Today editor, wrote:

“The bible actually makes gruesome bedtime reading with its pornographic and bloodthirsty language. Millions of men, women and children have been hurt by bible teachings and primitive beliefs in everlasting torment, original sin, human sacrifice, lethal or self-mutilating ‘tests of faith’ and religious bigotry.

“Murderers, child molesters, rapists, even slaveholders, can find bible verses that justify or mandate their crimes. Nonbelievers and people who have been harmed by bible teachings should not have to walk into a hotel room and be greeted by an open bible, or have to handle it in a drawer when we’re looking for the phone book.

“Is your corporation truly ready to defend bible teachings,” Gaylor asked, “and to insult customers of other faiths or no faith?”

To Be Continued . . .

Freedom From Religion Foundation