Air Force to Remove Requirement for Hotel Bibles
In early February, a cockpit atheist in Kadena Airbase in Japan contacted MAAF to ask why there was a Bible posted in Air Force lodging. Because the Air Force is a government agency, there should be neutrality toward religion rather than a special privilege for Christianity. After inquiries from the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers and a legal review, Air Force Services Operations has promised to end their Bible requirement.
Is a Bible provided? – Air Force Lodging Accreditation Checklist
After hearing of the practice, MAAF contacted several lodging operations at major Air Force bases. All confirmed that they, too, had Bibles in their rooms. Lodging managers pointed to their checklist for “accreditation” as the reason the Bibles were in the rooms. It is standard practice for hotels, civilian and military, to have a checklist for the exact contents of a room. It is common practice for hotels to include the ubiquitous Gideon Bible. However, Air Force counsel has recognized that, while private companies may choose to privilege Christianity, Air Force leaders, including Air Force lodging managers, are Constitutionally-bound to avoid entanglement with religion. Including a Bible in every room is a privilege for Christianity.
A previous MAAF victory, removal of “Opus Dei” (latin for God’s Work) from an obscure Air Force procurement agency motto elicited outrage from no less than Congress itself, or at least the “Prayer Caucus”. Congressman Forbes, Founder of the Prayer Caucus, stated that the effort of MAAF “sets a dangerous precedent that all references to God, despite their context, must be removed from the military.” In truth, this “victory” was a minor bit of cleanup mentioned by MAAF in the context of an article about our primary mission of outreach and support. That message was lost on those trying to vilify MAAF.
Not to worry, Congressman, the Gideons can still place Bibles in designated areas like enlistment processing centers, alongside materials placed by MAAF. MAAF affirms the need for chaplains to provide religious services to those who ask. Service members can and should have their own beliefs represented on their gravesites, if they so choose.
Rep. Steve King recently spoke on the floor of the house against a new visitation policy at Walter Reed military hospital. King stirred up quite a controversy, claiming Bibles were banned. In reality, the policy prevented Christians from proselytizing defenseless patients at a government hospital. Walter Reed has not provided the policy after several requests from MAAF, but we hope that the new policy allows patients to request and receive Bibles and religious materials from whatever private agencies will provide the materials while also protecting patients from uninvited proselytism by random visitors.
Forbes, King, and the Prayer Caucus have also pushed through two bills enshrining Christianity in government, including one promoting prayer at military memorials and one allowing for crosses at veterans memorials. MAAF protects the secular character of our government and free exercise for individuals, while many promote the exclusionary and unconstitutional concept of a Christian Nation.