The other day, I posted about a strange giveaway at the U.S. General Services Administration in St. Louis, Missouri. If you went there to sign up to join the National Guard, you would also get a camouflage-covered copy of the New Testament (provided by Gideons International).
According to a letter from the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, that was coercion and needed to stop:
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.
Now, Military.com is reporting that the Pentagon is perfectly fine with the Bible giveaways. Which means the door is open for other religious (and presumably non-religious) texts to also be distributed:
The Pentagon says the commander of a St. Louis recruiting station may allow groups to make available to recruits copies of the New Testament Bible — or the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita or any other religious text.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen told Military.com that the Bibles kept at the Military Entrance Processing Station and offered to recruits are covered by existing regulation. But so would be the holy books of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and any other faith, he said.
“A commander who accommodates one [faith group] must be prepared to do the same for other, similar [groups],” Christensen said. “Should the presence of any provided material adversely impact the accomplishment of the mission, the commander has the discretion to remove all literature that threatens good order and discipline.”
Time to call their bluff.
What’s going to happen when copies of the Koran are donated to the recruiting centers? What about non-theistic tracts? I’m sure the Satanic Temple has literature, too.
Already, the “open forum” seems tenuous. Someone from the AHA tried to visit the St. Louis center yesterday just to check out the building (and the Bible display), only to be denied entry:
When someone representing the AHA went to the Spruce Street, St. Louis, building to check out the Bible display and distribution, he said, the person wasn’t allowed entry.
“One can’t help but be suspicious that there is some religious favoritism going on here,” [AHA Legal Director David] Niose said. “The Christian religion and Christian Bible are allowed quite easily, but if we try to get an atheist book up there, are we going to have a tough time doing so?”
I hope the AHA tries to find out.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)