Despite a recent decision by Northern Illinois University to have the Gideons Bibles removed from the rooms of its Holmes Student Center Hotel, the Bibles at the University of Illinois’ Illini Union Hotel are staying put.
Larry Uphoff, senior associate director of operations at the Illini Union Hotel, recently told The Daily Illini that he hasn’t heard any complaints regarding the Bibles and was not aware of any plans to have them removed.
But someone did complain at a campus nearby. It was Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
Gaylor had recently stayed at the Holmes Student Center while on the Northern Illinois University campus to speak to the university’s Secular Student Alliance, the Chicago Tribune reports. When she returned to Wisconsin, the foundation’s lawyer sent a letter to the hotel asking that Bibles be removed from the public university’s hotel rooms.
“It sends a message of endorsement — ‘We think it's so important you can't possibly go to sleep at night without your Christian Bible in your bedside table,’” Gaylor wrote, according to the Tribune and the Daily Illini. “It's proselytizing in the privacy of a room you probably paid a lot of money for. It's bad manners.”
Brad Hoey, a university spokesman, said the hotel removed the Bibles after receiving the letter.
“We're very conscious of the separation of church and state,” Hoey told the Tribune. “We also embrace our diverse and inclusive culture. Those who wish to have access to the Bibles can have access to them on the premises.”
Bibles are now kept at the front desk where guests can request them.
It’s the type of victory the FFRF has grown accustomed to. The foundation also recently convinced the the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin to remove Bibles from campus hotel rooms. It has also requested that the National Park Service remove Bibles from rooms at lodges in Yellowstone National Park.
“Even if it takes three decades of education, we're finally persuading public officials," Gaylor said. “It's an anachronism. As this country becomes more and more secular, more and more people are offended. It's a constant mop-up job.”
As for the Illini Union Hotel at the University of Illinois, FFRF legal fellow Ryan Jayne told The Daily Illini that the foundation has not requested that the Bibles be removed.
“Usually we rely on members to report issues to us, but we don’t proactively go out and try to stop things across the board,” Jayne said. “We don’t plan to reach out to other universities unless we hear a complaint about that.”