Gideon Bible Gauntlet Run on College Campuses

Reader questions are edited to eliminate references to specific people and places, unless there’s a need to call out the cavalry. If you see something here that almost resembles your question, but your main concern isn’t addressed, go ahead and ask again in the comments. I’ll do my best to respond.


Reader Question:

At my state-funded college, we grudgingly welcome the Gideon Bible Gauntlet Run a couple of times a year, which I find beyond annoying. I mean to ask these guys next time if they’ve heard of the Establishment Clause/First Amendment/Whole Constitution thingy … and take pictures, too!

Professor Plum



Some people love a captive audience. It’s the only way they get attention.

Did you know that the Gideons pass out their New Testaments in different colors depending on the audience? Colleges get green bindings. I had no idea until today that the Gideon Bible covers were the hanky code of evangelical Christians.

The Gideons and other religious groups may not pass out their literature and Bibles on public school campuses attended by minors. They get around this by standing just off campus, or by lobbing Bibles through the open windows of school buses. I kid you not. But college campuses are different.

Here’s what FFRF says about the Gideons on college campuses:

Generally, so long as the Gideons are on sidewalks and public walkways, they may hand out bibles on public college campuses. So if this happens on your campus, check with your Dean of Students’ office or the the college website on policies regulating nonstudent activity on campus. If such activity violates campus regulations or permits are required, report the incident promptly to the appropriate authorities.

I don’t see anything wrong with complaining about harassment from them, or complaining about them blocking a sidewalk, or complaining about feeling intimidated by them.

A creative, activist sort of thing to do when the Gideons visit is to get lots of copies of their Bibles. They’re handing them out for free, so greedily accept them. Go a step further: enthusiastically ask the Gideons if you can help. Then put warning stickers on every Bible you touch, and redistribute them to your classmates. Zazzle sells several of these stickers, and it’s always possible to print your own what with a pack of labels and the miracles of modern science and all. If the Gideons get wise to you, just stop the recipients of their largess after they’ve accepted their individual Bibles, and ask to see what they got. When the unsuspecting person hands you their new Gideon Bible, slap a sticker on it and hand it back.



Got a legal question? Email me at I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. You can see my regular blog at, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

  • D-Dave

    The Gideons and other religious groups are not to pass out their literature and Bibles on public school campuses attended by minors. They get around this by

    …How? HOW do they get around this? The cliffhanger is killing me!

  • Anne

    Sorry – I hit “Post” instead of “schedule” – it’s updated now.

  • baal

    When I was a college student, I used to use these as coasters for drinks. One year I collected a ton of them and made a card house in the dorm sitting room. Another year I was tired of them so I kept it in my pocket and used it to ward off the various folks who were handing them out (think vampire and garlick flavored crosses). They’d see you have one and turn to the next person. One 3rd party guy saw me do this and pulled the same. The hander- outer figured it out after the 3rd bounce.

    I think there was even a spare box of these in the dorm security desk. Legal or not they went everywhere at at least 4 Universities in the midwest that I’m aware of.

  • Brad1990

    So I followed the link to the Wiki page, and:

    “Gideon was a man who was willing to do exactly what God wanted him to do, regardless of his own judgment as to the plans or results. Humility, faith, and obedience were his great elements of character. This is the standard that The Gideons International is trying to establish in all its members, each man to be ready to do God’s will at any time, at any place, and in any way that the Holy Spirit leads.”

    Am I the only one who thinks this makes them sound… dangerous?

  • RuQu

    As the technology matures, I see directed audio beams becoming a great source of atheist trolling entertainment for people like Gideons. A voice that only they can hear, telling them to be humble and do exactly what “God” wants them to do…

    • John Evans

      I’m wondering on how fraud laws and similar legislation would apply to that. Criminal mischief, maybe? Would impersonation rules count for fictional characters?

      Though it might be even more fun to troll them with OTHER religions. Especially if there is a place of worship. “Psst, hey you. Good, you can hear me. Your spirit is pure. I am Vishnu…”

      • RuQu

        Probably a question for Anne, but I imagine it would depend on what you do with it.

        If you tell them to rob a bank and leave the money in the bushes at the end of your block, that’s probably a crime even if you never expected them to be crazy enough to do it. Certainly a crime if you keep the cash.

        But if you just insist that they do the Chicken Dance while in the aisle on their way to get Communion? Or that they skip on every third and seventh step when walking? No crimes there…

  • RuQu

    I just noticed the Gideons formed in Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, WI.