The University of Wisconsin-Extension in Madison has decided to remove Bibles from guest rooms at a campus conference center after receiving complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A guest at the Lowell Center complained to the secular-advocacy group. FFRF sent a letter to the university in November alleging the Gideons Bibles amount to an endorsement of Christianity.
“When a government entity like the Lowell Center allows distribution of religious material to visitors, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message, in this case a Christian message,” said FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott.
"While private hotels may choose to put any type of literature they want in their guest rooms, state-run colleges have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion,” he added.
On Nov. 25, university Chancellor Ray Cross responded, promising to remove the Bibles from 137 guest rooms.
“We reviewed the concern raised about the placement of Bibles in our guest rooms and decided to remove them. We want to make sure all guests are comfortable in our lodging,” Bill Mann, director of the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s conference centers, said in a statement.
FFRF offers stickers for travelers to place on Gideon bibles, one of which says "literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life."
The group says it has received complaints about “aggressive Gideon tactics and complicity by some school officials” for more than 30 years.
“Violations include principals openly permitting Gideon members to visit classrooms to distribute bibles and talk to children, to stand in the halls handing out bibles or outside the entrance as children leave,” the group said in a release Wednesday.
“Some of the worst cases have involved reports that representatives were pitching bibles to young children entering school buses from school parking lots, even on occasion shoving them through school bus windows," the release said.