Radio and TV host Sean Hannity defended the presence of Bibles in nightstands at Iowa State University’s Hotel Memorial Union during a heated on-air clash with atheist leader Annie Laurie Gaylor Wednesday night.
While Gaylor claimed that the Bibles, which the hotel will officially remove from rooms by March 1, constitute a government endorsement of Christianity, Hannity pushed pack, saying people have the option to simply ignore their presence.
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Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist group that sought the removal of the Bibles, said a public institution has no place having Bibles in its hotel rooms.
"Why would a university place a religious book in a hotel room unless there was a message of endorsement -- 'We think you should be reading this book,'" she said. "Imagine the outcry if somebody opened up the bedside table at a public-supported institution and found Richard Dawkins' 'God Delusion' or found the Koran?"
Hannity said he'd have no problem with having a Koran in a bedside drawer. But Gaylor was unwavering.
"I don't like to pay high prices to stay in a hotel room to find a book in there that says that I should be murdered -- that blasphemers should be put to death, that homosexuals are an abomination, that women are subordinate," she said, sharing her interpretation of select scripture.
Hannity compared the Bible's presence to television channels at the hotel that Gaylor also might not enjoy, quipping, for instance, that she probably doesn't like watching his own TV show and likely simply avoids it.
During the exchange, Hannity accused Gaylor and the Freedom From Religion Foundation's of having a financial motivation for their fight.
"I don't believe for a second you're offended. I'm sure your organization will raise money off of this and you'll send out letters saying, 'We took on Iowa University,'" Hannity said, later adding, "You get off on insulting peoples' deeply held religious views."
Later in the interview, when the host asked how much money the atheist organization brings in each year, Gaylor said, "That's none of your business."
Watch the fiery segment below:
David French, senior counsel at the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, 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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