An atheist group is accusing the government of improperly displaying and allowing the distribution of camouflage-covered Bibles at one of its military recruitment centers in Missouri — something the organization called “a clear breach of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.”
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, a secular activist group, sent a letter to the U.S. General Services Administration and the National Guard demanding that immediate action be taken to address the matter.
Atheist activists were apparently alerted to the issue when an unnamed client enlisted in the National Guard inside a General Services Administration building.
The individual apparently noticed that Gideons Bibles were on display and available to recruits.
“In July 2014, our client enlisted in the National Guard at the U.S. General Services Administration in St. Louis, Missouri,” read the letter. “During the swearing-in process, our client observed the government offering the aforementioned New Testament Bibles for free to military recruits.”
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center went on to allege that there was a “coercive environment” inside the recruitment center and that the individual felt pressure to take one of the Bibles, which were covered in camouflage and, thus, seemed to be directly targeted at military officials.
“Numerous cases have ruled that when the government offers biblical literature, even if done indirectly, it is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” Monica Miller, a lawyer with the secular group, said in a press release.
By allowing the Bibles, the atheist group alleges that the government is in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, as recruits constitute members of a “captive audience” who feel compelled to comply and take the Bibles.
“By assisting Gideons in distributing Bibles to military recruits, the government sends the ‘unequivocal message that’ the U.S. military, ‘as an institution, endorses the religious expressions embodied’ in the Bibles,” the letter continued.
The government has two weeks from August 4 — the date the letter was sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center — to respond with assurances that there will be a plan in place to remove the Bibles if they wish to avoid legal action.
Military public affairs officials told TheBlaze that they are currently working to track down the proper press contact who can answer questions about the matter.
But a reporter for Military.com spoke with spokeswoman Christine Parker of the Defense Department’s U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, who said that the matter is being looked into and that commanders are permitted to allow “non-federal entities” to place written items inside stations.
This isn’t the first flap over Bibles in the military and it likely won’t be the last.
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