Billy Hallowell, Deseret News
An atheist organization that has asked private hotels and publicly funded university-owned hotels to remove Bibles from their guest rooms has reportedly convinced the Thunderbird Executive Inn in Glendale, Arizona, to do just that.
According to a press release from The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, rooms at the hotel "are now Bible free" after the organization requested their removal.
The sticking point for atheists is that the Thunderbird Executive Inn is located on the premises of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, which recently became a "unit" of Arizona State University, a public college.
With the hotel standing on public land and having an affiliation with the college, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter dated March 4, 2016, to Allen J. Morrison, CEO and director general of Thunderbird school, urging the removal of the Bibles.
"If a state-run university has a policy of providing a Christian religious text to guests, that policy facilitates illegal endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over nonreligion," the letter read. "State-run colleges have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion."
The letter stated that the atheist group was under the impression that Thunderbird Executive Inn had — along with the Thunderbird School of Global Management — become units of the public university in 2015.
But a brief response note from Morrison that was dated July 19 said that "ownership of the inn did not change in 2015 as (the Freedom From Religion Foundation) letter assumes."
An article on the Arizona State University website notes that the Thunderbird School of Global Management became a unit of the state school in 2014, not 2015. Deseret News National has called both Morrison's office as well as the inn to seek clarification on the Bible removal as well as ownership of the inn, but requests for comment have not yet been returned.
The dispute over dates aside, Morrison wrote in his response that he decided to make a change to the hotel's Bible policy.
"I have, however, requested that religious materials be removed from the Inn's guest rooms," he wrote. "I trust that resolves your concerns."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a statement that the organization welcomes this response, citing other examples of public universities that have agreed to remove Bibles after the atheist group contacted them.
Among those schools are: Pennsylvania State University, Portland State University, the University of Iowa, Northern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to a statement from the organization.
"Anyone zealous enough to need the Bible as bedtime reading will travel with one," Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. "The rest of us paying guests seek a vacation from proselytizing when we're on vacation."
She continued, "What is offensive at private hotels and motels, however, becomes unconstitutional at public-supported rooms."
While the Freedom From Religion Foundation has focused attention on public university-owned accommodations, the organization has also attempted to get private companies to remove Bibles from rooms.
The central target of their efforts has been Gideons International, a Christian organization that offers free Bibles to hotels. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter last year to 15 hotel companies asking that the holy book be removed from rooms.
"The Bible calls for killing nonbelievers, apostates, gays, 'stubborn sons' and women who transgress biblical double standards," the group alleged.
The organization warned that secular guests might be offended by the presence of Bibles and encouraged recipients of the letter to "be more hospitable to non-Christian and nonreligious clientele by offering 'Bible-free' rooms."