On Intersectionality and Bibles in Hotel Rooms

On Intersectionality and Bibles in Hotel Rooms July 18, 2015

Hemant Mehta recently crossposted an article published in American Atheist magazine. This article, written by Steve Lowe, was titled Dealing with Hotel Bibles. Here’s an excerpt:

When I come across a Bible — or any religious book — in a hotel room, I personally take it to the front desk. I smile, shake the hand of the person behind the counter, and compliment them on something (the nice room, the helpful staff, etc.). If it’s the case, I mention that I’m a member of their loyalty program. I then ask to speak to the manager on duty. I do all of this in a friendly way, which establishes a cordial setting for what I do next, which is to ask, “Is this a hotel only for Christians?” or “Do you have a preference for Christians at this hotel?” or “Do you presume that I am a Christian?”

Take a moment to imagine how awkward this must be for the manager on duty* whom Lowe approaches with his complaint. They have no say in the placement of the Bibles. This policy comes from above. Lowe ought to take his complaint up the ladder to those who actually set the policies, not to the individual unlucky enough to be the manager on duty. It would be one thing if Lowe simply asked the manager on duty to convey his complaint to corporate, but he does more than that by opening with passive aggressive leading questions clearly intended to embarrass someone who does not themselves set the policy in question.

Lowe’s article on as follows, outlining his line of questions:

The typical reply is, “No, why do you ask?”

“Well,” I say, placing the Bible on the counter, “I found this in my room.” The usual reply is, “Yes, we put those in all of our rooms as a matter of company policy.”

My response, always delivered politely, is to ask, “Why is there only a Christian religious book in the room? Does this hotel presume that all guests are Christian? Why not a Koran, and a Torah, and the Book of Mormon, and a book on Buddhism?”

At this point, they often apologize on behalf of the hotel and offer to take it off my hands. I give it to them and thank them, but I continue with the following points:

“The policy of placing only a Christian book in the rooms gives the impression that this hotel assumes that all guests are Christian, or worse, that it prefers Christian guests, or, even worse, that it thinks all guests should become Christians.

I do not rant or get angry. I want them to remember me as a reasonable guest with constructive feedback — the type of guest they want to come back.

If Lowe wants the manager he comes to with his complaint to see him as a “reasonable guest” coming to them with “constructive feedback,” why not lead with a simple statement of his complaint instead of playing an awkward game of twenty questions? Lowe approaches the issue in a way that immediately makes it personal. It becomes about the actions of individual hotel and the hotel staff rather than about the corporate policy they could not change if they wanted to.

Finally, Lowe writes that he ends his encounters like this:

In closing, I state exactly what actions I want them to take: “Thank you for listening to my feedback (keep smiling). I would like you to convey to your upper management my complaint and ask that they consider changing their policy and put no religious materials in the rooms. A Bible is not necessary, it’s off-putting to many guests, and even offensive to some. If this hotel wants to respond to the “needs” of some guests, I suggest having copies of several religious texts at the front desk, available upon request.” I leave on a cordial note by shaking their hand and thanking them for their time.

If that is what Lowe wants—for the manager he approaches to convey his complaint up the corporate ladder—why not simply state that upfront? Why start with all of the painfully awkward questions? Why not ask the manager for a complaint form, or put the complaint down in writing and hand it over with a simple explanation? Lowe says his goal is to convey his complaint to the upper management, but in the process embarrasses lower level employees who do not set the policy and could not change it if they wanted to.

Of course, Lowe isn’t the only one to take out his disagreement with corporate policy on local employees. The Chick-fil-A “kiss day” back in 2012, when gay rights advocates called on gay couples to go to their local Chick-fil-A establishment and kiss, comes to mind. Intersectionality pushes us to look for ways to protest policies we disapprove of, including policies that discriminate against us, without making collateral damage out of low-level or mid-level employees, who are often underpaid and usually have no say in the policy in question anyway.

* In an earlier version of this post, I stated that Lowe advocated complaining to whomever was at the desk. On reading his article, I missed the line where Lowe states he asks for the manager. This does little to change my overall concern, however. Lowe uses a series of passive aggressive leading questions that are very clearly intended to embarrass the employee (manager or not) and create an awkward and confrontational situation. If Lowe merely wanted to convey his complaint to the manager, he could simply state his complaint, but he does not.

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