If you want enlist in the National Guard at the U.S. General Services Administration in St. Louis, Missouri, be prepared for a dose of Jesus after you sign on.
According to the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, government officials there are giving away camouflage-covered copies of the New Testament to recruits, including one who thankfully blew the whistle on the practice:
During the swearing-in process, our client observed the government offering the aforementioned New Testament Bibles for free to military recruits. There do not appear to be any other books or written materials for distribution. The Bibles are tailor-made for military recruits, adorned with camouflage book covering. In light of the coercive atmosphere of the recruitment office, our client felt pressured to take a free Bible.
The AHA is arguing — correctly, in my opinion — that by giving away these Bibles, the government is illegally endorsing Christianity. It’s irrelevant that the Gideons donated these Bibles and taxpayer money wasn’t used. (Would the government have given away copies of The God Delusion if an atheist group donated them? What about the Koran?)
The letter by attorney Monica Miller continues:
Our client arrived in St. Louis on Thursday and took his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. He stayed overnight in a hotel and woke up early the next morning to fill out paperwork and be administered his medical briefing. He took a Breathalyzer test, a vision test, hearing test, urine test, and blood test, followed by fingerprinting and more paperwork. After the testing, he sat in the waiting room in which the Bibles were distributed for about an hour. He observed a fellow recruit take a Bible. Military personnel were present at all times.
Given the importance of first impressions, you can understand how much pressure there would be to take a copy of the Bible, whether or not you believe its contents.
The AHA isn’t filing a lawsuit. Yet. All they’re asking for is for the practice to stop immediately. It’s a simple request requiring a simple solution — yet it’ll inevitably be decried by those who think this constitutes some sort of injustice against Christians.
The Gideons can just hand the Bibles over to local churches, who can do with them as they please. In the meantime, it’s the government’s responsibility to respect the beliefs of all recruits, not just the Christian ones.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)