A conservative legal group is urging two public universities to reverse their decision to ban Bibles from hotel rooms following demands from an atheist activist group.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal firm based in Arizona, is urging both the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University to continue allowing Gideon Bibles in night stands. The organization is claiming that the First Amendment does not preclude their presence in public accommodations, Christian News Network reported.
Rather than protecting constitutional rights, Alliance Defending Freedom argues that the universities may actually be discriminating against religion in deciding to remove the holy book.
“In reality, the First Amendment does not require you to remove these Bibles, and by removing them, you may have demonstrated the very viewpoint discrimination and hostility towards religion that the First Amendment prohibits,” the letter reads.
It continues, “The Supreme Court and numerous other federal courts have repeatedly condemned efforts to exclude or restrict religious materials and activities as viewpoint or content discrimination, both at universities and elsewhere.”
The letter goes on to note that hostility toward a particular faith is not permitted under the U.S. Constitution and that the Establishment Clause is not a requirement that public institutions entirely divorce themselves from everything remotely religious.
While both the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University were likely attempting to avoid a potential lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation — the atheist group that advocated for the removal of the Bibles — potential legal problems could still abound.
The Alliance Defending Freedom explained in the letter that a religious discrimination lawsuit could be waged over the removal of the Bibles, Christian News Network reported.
“Presumably, your guest rooms include a variety of printed materials, including magazines, phone books, and information about the campus and guest facility,” the letter continued. “By removing the Bibles because they are religious, you may have engaged in viewpoint discrimination, which is ‘an egregious form of content discrimination’ and a ‘blatant’ violation of the First Amendment.”
Alliance Defending Freedom wants both universities to restore the Bibles in public hotel rooms.
As TheBlaze previously reported, starting March 1, Bibles will be removed from night stands Iowa State University’s Hotel Memorial Union.
And last month, the University of Wisconsin-Extension, the outreach arm of the state’s public university system, also complied with the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s demands to end the tradition of placing Bibles in guest rooms at a campus conference center.
David French, senior counsel at the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, recently told TheBlaze that while Gaylor and her group argue the Bibles posed a constitutional violation, this isn’t necessarily the case.
“Assuming the university wasn’t rejecting including other offered religious texts in the nightstands, there’s no constitutional problem,” French said. “The ‘problem’ here is the classic problem of the offended atheist who is dissatisfied with the choice of not looking at the Bible and takes steps to make sure that no one will look at it.”
French charged that incidents like this will continue to unfold against religious expression in the public sphere, as long as a “quirk” in the law provides “special privileges to offended citizens.”
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