Bibles removed from Iowa State guest rooms

On January 29 I put up a brief post noting that someone had complained about the presence of Gideon Bibles in the guest rooms at Iowa State University’s (ISU) Memorial Union, lodgings that are part of a public university. I also reproduced the letter that the ISU got from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) saying that those Bibles were a no-no—a violation of the First Amendment. The letter worked: no litigation was necessary. The University removed the Bibles.

There are many reports of this victory on the internet, but I was most interested in the one at the Christian News Network, as the coverage was most extensive and I hoped there would be some funny comments.

Last week, Memorial Union Director Richard Reynolds responded to the correspondence via email, advising that the university would comply with FFRF’s request.

“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,” he wrote, noting that officials will move the Bibles to the university library.

Following receipt of the email, FFRF issued a news release stating that it had “scored another victory for secularism.”

Naturally the religious were affronted; they don’t like it when the Constitution prohibits this kind of proselytizing. The FFRF was also victorious in a similar case in Madison, Wisconsin, the home of its headquarters:

As previously reported, FFRF likewise convinced the University of Wisconsin last month to remove Gideon Bibles from its Lowell Center guest rooms following a complaint. But some stated that the university should not have caved due to the offense of a single complainant.

“How thin-skinned have we become in our country that we can be offended because a Bible is placed in a drawer in a room? If you disagree with the Bible and find it to be a farce or fairy tale, then just ignore it,” Jeff Shergalis, assistant pastor at Madison Baptist Church, told Christian News Network.

“I have never been offended when in the lobby of a doctor’s office I see a copy of Mother Goose stories,” he continued. [JAC: that’s a remarkably apt comparison!] “It seems strange that people who claim to be so intellectually superior that they are above believing the Bible are so easily offended by it.”

“Many of our founding fathers read the Bible, quoted the Bible, and believed the Bible,” Shergalis added. “It seems very sad when a city that is named for a president who declared a ‘National Day of Prayer and Fasting’ is so quick to remove God and His word from its facilities.”

These people seem to have no clue about the meaning and intent of the First Amendment. No atheist is calling for The God Delusion to be put in state-sponsored lodgings. If there were, could we tell the offended religionists that if they disagree with it, they could simply avoid reading it?

The state is supposed to be religiously neutral. There are plenty of Bibles around, and if you want to read one, there are light and small “travel versions” you can take with you.

I wonder what people like the following would say if they found a Qur’an in their hotel room drawer instead of a Bible.

Picture 1If you want a Bible, bring your own!

This may seem like a trivial issue and victory, but remember what Clarence Darrow said at the Scopes Trial on July 11, 1925 (I love this elocution!):

If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

What a speaker that man was! And I suspect that this speech was, like his plea for the lives of Leopold and Loeb, made extemporaneously.

70 Comments

  1. Diane G.
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    “I have never been offended when in the lobby of a doctor’s office I see a copy of Mother Goose stories,” he continued. [JAC: that’s a remarkably apt comparison!]

    LOL!

    • Posted February 18, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Actually, I have to take issue with Jerry on this one — sorry!

      Mother Goose is far more sophisticated and entertaining than anything I’ve ever found in any Bible.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        You mean you aren’t inspired and entertained by bears coming out of the woods to maul children who were making fun of a bald guy??

        You seem like one of them shrill, strident, rationalist atheists to me, boy.

        • Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          I just can’t get past how cliched it is to have a talking plant give magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero…and that zombie sex stuff at the end — isn’t that a bit inappropriate for children? Not to mention the whole Numbers 31 rape / snuff story….

          b&

          • Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

            I actually kind-of like the very, very end of the thing (or at least the 2nd-to-last verse): “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

            But being in the sex research business might have something to do with it.

            If all the bibles disappear from hotels everywhere, it would be nice — but I’m afraid I would get nostalgic, thinking back to the good times I had cracking each bible open to that verse, and inking in some quick advice about how to combat premature ejaculation. …followed by “and stop calling me Shirley.”

          • brmo
            Posted February 19, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

            I think you missed the part in the very beginning of the book of fables where all of us were created by 1 female and 3 males. And the other one where two daughters rape their dad… Incest is prominent in that book, and Christians want it taught that way. Gross.

  2. Sastra
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    “How thin-skinned have we become in our country that we can be offended because a Bible is placed in a drawer in a room? If you disagree with the Bible and find it to be a farce or fairy tale, then just ignore it.”

    One of the main reasons Christians have problems with understanding the constitutional issue at stake here is the common belief that the problem with Bibles in public university guest rooms is that they “offend” atheists. An atheist might see it and feel insulted.

    No. The issue is not about being offended. It’s not about being “thin-skinned” or being confronted with things we don’t agree with. That’s a dangerous red herring.

    It’s about respecting the need to keep the state out of the religion business.

    As long as the religious insist on framing this issue as one regarding “offense” then they will always be furious with atheists trying to tell people what they can and cannot do out in public. Decisions like this are seen as being just like removing literature from private offices … or forbidding mention of religion in public spaces … or what Muslims do. They see it as the secular equivalent of a blasphemy law.

    They understand blasphemy laws very well.

    • H.H.
      Posted February 18, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      As usual, you hit upon the same point I wanted to make, but said it better than I could have.

      Yes, the lie that atheists want to suppress expressions of Christianity because we are offended by it is the same thing we here when the issue is manger scenes on government property or starting Congressional sessions with a prayer. In order to maintain the fantasy of being a persecuted group, many Christians will always need to believe this about atheists, because if they were able to rationally consider our point of view they would probably agree with it. It’s why there are virtually no creationists who truly understand the scientific evidence supporting evolution, since an understanding of the evidence would likely mean they would no longer remain creationists. So we’re seeing the sorting effect of a bias in action.

      • Sastra
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        One wonders why the Christians never wonder why the FFRF never goes after manger scenes on private properties or in businesses if they think our problem is just seeing something which supports Christianity and thus getting “offended.” But no, it’s always state or government property.

        Have they not noticed this discrepancy? Do they think there must be plenty of court cases they can’t remember at the moment where this actually happened — an atheist using FFRF to sue a neighbor with a nativity on his own lawn? Or do they think this is just such an obvious next step that the teeny tiny problem of atheists not caught doing it YET can be ignored?

        Inquiring minds want to know.

        • H.H.
          Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          Have they not noticed this discrepancy?

          Oh, but that’s the obvious next step! If Christians don’t take a stand now, tomorrow atheists will be storming churches and ripping down crosses. Remember, we are a godless, immoral bunch.

          • Richard Olson
            Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

            Atheist hordes crash through sacristry doors in every city, town, hamlet, and isolated rural church in a fiendish nationwide coordinated attack, vastly outnumbering, and quickly slaughtering, brave Christian Sunday services worshippers turned defenders, every last man, woman, and child fighting to the bloody, glorious end.

            • H.H.
              Posted February 18, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

              Aye. But it doesn’t end there! For Jesus comes and raises up the dead. He casts down the sinners and rewards his faithful with eternal life.

              You know, you can almost see how this sort of thinking was evolutionarily-selected for. This sort of fanatical devotion is very difficult to dislodge through physical violence. People will fight to the death to protect their faith. This gives certain religious beliefs the tenacity to survive through human conflicts and other sorts of “cultural extinction events.”

              And in some ways, that’s what fundamentalist religion is still designed for. It’s a warfare model, evolved to thrive during times of conflict. This is why they seem so agitated all the time, eager to be provoked. It’s also why we see some Christians fall into the trap of “fatwa envy,” the secret desire that these matters could be decided through violence.

              New Atheists are so frustrating because all we want to do is talk.

              • Sastra
                Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

                Worse, the New Atheists want to argue. “Someone asked me to give a coherent definition of God! Help, Help — I’m being oppressed!”

              • Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

                See the cruelty inherent in the system!

                b&

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

                @Sastra:

                And now they’re asking me for reasons and evidence! Someone make them stop!

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            ….and eating babies. Don’t forget that it doesn’t take much for us to go back to eating babies.

            • Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

              Go back?

              You mean tonight’s menu changed again?

              Make it simple for me: do I or do I not bring the Chianti?

              b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

                Lucy & David Silverman said we don’t do that anymore. Maybe we should check with Dawkins because he’s our leader.

              • Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

                Ah…yes. I see.

                Let me reassure you — and, as the official EAC (which still doesn’t exist!) Memographer, I should know — the memo they were working from was neither official nor sanctioned. Indeed, it still remains the position of the (non-existent) EAC that it is up to (non-)members how many babies they should eat, and whether to roast them or fry them. (And of course, under no circumstances should any dead baby ever be put in the oven or fryer!)

                So, if you wish to cut back on your baby consumption, the EAC respects your choice — or, rather, it would if it existed, which it doesn’t. The Unaffiliated Physicians Not Of The EAC also stress that there remains no peer-reviewed studies linking baby consumption with any ill health effects, despite claims to the contrary by certain other organizations which shall not be named, now nor never.

                Now, if you’ll excuse me, my black helicopter…which isn’t there…is ready to fly me to the undisclosed location we don’t have for tonight’s weekly BabyQ.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

                Ah, that makes sense… or doesn’t.

              • Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

                Good.

                And be sure to not look in your mailbox for the memo I won’t be sending out later tonight about a special mind control ray gun tuneup offer from our unaffiliated partners at ACME. It’s quite the smokin’ deal! If that sort of thing existed, of course, which it doesn’t….

                b&

              • Posted February 18, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

                Splitters!

                /@

              • Posted February 18, 2014 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

                Do, but only if you have a nice one.

                /@

            • Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

              Hmm, this thread sounds like the beginning of a plot line for an awful horror movie or TV series.

              • Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

                Or the start of my favorite — a recipe exchange!

                b&

    • Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly.

      /@

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Though, truth be told, the stupid motel bibles often do offend me, depending on my mood-of-the-day. Not the bibles, exactly, but the effrontery & self-righteousness of those who want them there.

      Not to detract from your excellent point, however!

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Learn where the really juicy verses are (Noah screwing his daughters, the bears mauling the children, the not-at-all hard to find misogyny and/or anti-semitism, talking snakes, ad infinitum) and leave a note with them tucked in between the cover and the first page.

        Or, alternatively, the first verse of the koran…

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          Oops, Lot screwed his daughters; Noah got drunk and exposed himself. My bad.

          • Paul S
            Posted February 19, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

            I d*g ear pages and use a highlighter to mark the juicy bits.

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted February 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

              You’re an evil man, Mr. S. I like your style!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 18, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      What many fail to understand is atheists often advocate for fairness for all. Christians don’t like being told that their religion isn’t the dominant one because they’ve grown so accustomed to it being that way that they’ve actually begun to drink their own kool-aid. Asking for equal treatment comes out as an attack.

      I do hope other religions start seeing that atheists are really their allies when it comes to things like this.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        If you’ve read Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason, you’ve seen that for a long time the Jews and the Catholics were strong supporters of public (and hence non-sectarian) education, for exactly the reason you describe–to keep from being swamped by the Protestant majority and forced to learn their religion in school.

        At least I think it’s in that book. Given my error with respect to Noah above, I’d better check, and I’m not immediately finding it in the book, but it was in something I read.

        Anyhow, here’s a quote that really is in Jacoby’s book: “There is unquestionably a powerful correlation between religious fundamentalism and lack of education.”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          One of the many books on my list to read!

        • Newish Gnu
          Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          If case you aren’t familiar with this bit of history, google up the “Bible Riots” in mid 19th century Philadelphia. Catholics and Protestants rioted over whether or not public school bible readings should be accompanied by explanations of the readings.

          Prots said no, Catholics said yes. Street fighting, arsons, and at least one death ensued.

  3. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Great win for the FFRF!

    Now let’s get the Freedom From Obsolete Technology Foundation to work on the problem of land-line phones and clock radios that still clutter the nightstands and bedside electrical outlets of most hotel rooms.

    • Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Or wifi that you have to pay for!

      (A fixed phone is still handy for calling room service.)

      /@

      • Posted February 19, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        And I like not having to bring an alarm clock (though I seem to always do so anyway)

        • Posted February 19, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          I always use my iPhone and my iPad mini one by my bedside, the other (set a minute or two later) on the desk or table, so I have to get out of bed to turn it off.

          /@

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted February 19, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          As Ant says, my phone does everything an alarm clock does (and a whole lot more), and goes everywhere I go.

          In fact the battery in my wristwatch ran down a couple of years ago, and I haven’t bothered to replace it because I always have my phone with me anyway.

          • Posted February 19, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            I have a very nice Swiss Army watch which I havent worn since the batteries died a couple of years ago!

            /@

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I love the characterization of those that are against the bibles being in the rooms as claiming “….to be so intellectually superior….” Are you saying the bible is only for the intellectually inferior or that only smart people object to it? Maybe we are all just hoity & stuck up to him.

    • Sastra
      Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      It’s almost as if, deep down, he knows it’s pretty silly.

      • abrotherhoodofman
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        I think Pastor Shergalis is pandering to his audience here, and is not necessarily objecting to the snootiness of atheists. He’s actually asserting the superiority of faith over intellect, which is exactly what his congregation wants to hear.

        These people just know they’re right. They don’t need all that fancy-shmancy science-y and evidence-y stuff — they have their faith, and that’s more than sufficient.

        I think Shergalis is actually trying to imply that we, the non-believers, are the stupid ones, for being “blinded” by science.

        • Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          To be fair, Miss Sakamoto’s beauty is quite blinding.

          Poetry in motion, even.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • abrotherhoodofman
            Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            Indeed, Brother Ben!

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

            It’s so sad that I knew exactly the song you were referencing without clicking the link.

            • abrotherhoodofman
              Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

              Oh yes and it’s a tenacious little ditty, isn’t it? Been going around in my head all afternoon…

              My apologies for the cliche!

          • Posted February 19, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

            he was tossed outta school cause the teacher knew he had the funk

  5. francis
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    //

  6. Posted February 18, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I notice that Clarence Darrow uses the “slippery slope” argument. We should avoid slippery slope arguments – otherwise before too long everyone will be using them!

  7. Cremnomaniac
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    The Pastor’s comment is very entertaining, “It seems strange that people who claim to be so intellectually superior that they are above believing the Bible are so easily offended by it.”

    I’m don’t think that intellectual superiority have anything to do with it. Seems to me to be more a matter of intellectual utilization. That, and the babble isn’t offensive per se, it’s the people who have decided that their ignorance should be promoted by the state.

    Or the other side of the coin, if everyone that had belief was allowed to place books in hotel rooms, there would be no room left for the guests.

    • Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. I’ve often thought that, instead of trying to convince the xians about constitutional law, an interesting law would require that if the bible is place in a public hotel room, the hotel must also place a copy of the torah, the koran, the bhagavad gita and several other religious books. Economics might be a more effective persuader than constitutional law!

      • Sastra
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Maybe we should just cut to the chase and put a copy of the Constitution in every hotel room.

        • Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          That goddamned piece of paper? Good luck with that…it’s way too “socialist” for the Republicans to ever sign off on it….

          b&

          • Kevin Alexander
            Posted February 19, 2014 at 2:17 am | Permalink

            ‘We the People?’
            How much more Commie can you get?

        • Richard Olson
          Posted February 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

          Everybody knows the Constitution is based on the Bible, so crowding desk drawers in hotel rooms with both is redundant. Christians never read either one of ‘em, anyway. So since the Bible is already in there, and the Constitution ain’t, I think it’s pretty obvious which way Occam’s razor slices here. Shut up and go try to place one of your satanic statues somewhere, heretical heathen atheists. Keep your secular grubby hands out of our American motel room drawers.

  8. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Since these Baptists seem to have no problem flouting laws when it is convenient, would it be presumptuous to suggest that scrawling their beliefs on public restroom walls is still a viable option?

    Talk about a captive audience (and an appropriate venue).

    I bet a teenage Jesus would do it. (That rebel.)

  9. Mark Joseph
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of (not) being offended, I hope everyone saw today’s “Reality Check” comic.

  10. Posted February 19, 2014 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    If they want a bible can they not take it with them?

    • Posted February 19, 2014 at 3:30 am | Permalink

      …as you pointed out… duh!

  11. Posted February 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Jeff Shergalis, assistant pastor at Madison Baptist Church, told Christian News Network. “It seems very sad when a city that is named for a president who declared a ‘National Day of Prayer and Fasting’ is so quick to remove God and His word from its facilities.”

    Mr Shergalis should be honest and note that President Madison’s Day of Fasting and Prayer was specifically directed to the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of Mankind

    This is not the God of the Bible and/or Christianity but the God of Deism.

    As for Christianity Mr Shergalis may be interested to know that this same James Madison stated “Fifteen centuries we’ve had the legal establishment of Christianity and what have been its fruits? In the laity ignorance and servility; in the clergy pride and indolence; in both superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

    • Posted February 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Do you know the source of that Madison quotation?

      /@

      • Posted February 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
        — James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, June 20, 1785

        http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/


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