This may not seem like a biggie, but I really do see violations of the First Amendment as a slippery slope. Every time the Ten Commandments is displayed on public property, every time creationism is taught without opposition in public-school science classes, every time a manger goes up on a courthouse lawn, it makes it easier for further (and perhaps worse) violations to occur in the future. That’s why it’s important to quickly nip in the bud any incursion of religion into the U.S. government. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF, the Official Website Atheist Organization™) is superb at this: they try to stop First Amendment violations at the outset, avoiding lengthy and expensive court battles. It’s important to recognize that doing so doesn’t just protect nonbelievers—it protects members of all faiths, for none should be privileged.
Iowa State University (ISU) is of course a public university, but the officials have allowed Gideon Bibles to be placed in the university guest rooms. We’ve all opened drawers in our hotel rooms to find such Bibles, but some readers have carped about that. Well, hotels can do what they want (Marriott hotel rooms, for instance, also have copies of the book of Mormon, since Bill Marriott, the son of the chain’s founders, is a Mormon.
Well, one of our readers, whose name I won’t reveal, complained to the FFRF about the Bibles in the ISU student union, and today the FFRF (i.e., staff lawyer Patrick Elliott) sent them one of their patented letters, which any sane lawyer will recognize as a shot across the bow. (Its implicit message is, “If you don’t take action, we’ll sue your pants off.”) I reproduce it below.
As I mentioned, this is not a huge battle in the war to keep church and state separate, but every little bit helps. And it does tick me off to see Bibles in hotel rooms. You never see the Bhagavad Gita or The God Delusion!
Note, in the letter below, the case law stating that Gideon Bibles cannot be placed in public secondary schools. Public universities are clearly not exempt from such a ruling.
Ceiling Cat bless the FFRF and its staff! If you want the biggest secular bang for your charity buck, you could do worse than give them a donation. Oh, and if you see potential violations of the First Amendment, always think about reporting them to the FFRF. They are nice folks and will decide whether any issue is worth pursuing.