“But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in Heaven.” Matthew 10:33 NLT
“Always do right. This will gratify some and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain
To whom it may concern:
Contrary to what your editorial of Monday, February 24 claimed, Iowa State University did NOT properly handle “The Bible Complaint”, and I would like to explain why I believe this to be true.
Allow me to provide a little background for those who are not familiar with the story itself: There are hotel rooms located in the Iowa State University Memorial Union, and in those rooms, as in tens of thousands of hotel and motel rooms throughout the country, “Gideon International” placed copies of the Holy Bible in the drawers of nightstands next to the beds. This is a practice that has gone on for decades and anyone staying in a hotel or motel anywhere in this country would be hard-pressed to say they have not seen a copy of the Bible stamped “Placed By The Gideons” at some point or another. A study done many years ago showed that the Bibles provided by the Gideons were picked up in many instances by individuals who went to hotel rooms intending to commit suicide, and that the decision to end their life was altered as a result of the Bible’s availability. There has never been any ‘contract’ to sign stating occupancy of the room was tied to believing in God, being a Christian, or reading the Bible itself. It was simply provided as an act of service to those travelers who may find some comfort in its presence, and there have undoubtedly been millions who have been happy to see it there. Certainly there have also been millions of individuals who have simply ignored it; just left it untouched in the drawer, or never opened the drawer in the first place. This, too, is an individual choice.
Along comes a group calling itself the “Freedom From Religion Foundation”. Somehow the fact of the Bible’s presence in these rooms rankles them. The group postulates that as ISU is a state-funded institution of higher learning, there should be no display of religion at all since such displays are offensive to those who have no faith at all. The working theory is that simply having a Bible in the drawer so it is available to anyone who might desire to pick it up and read it, is favoring Christianity over all other faiths or over the “Freedom From Religion” belief in nothing at all; that it constitutes some sort of insidious state-sponsored support of Christianity. A continuum of that theory would be that having no Bible creates no such favoritism and promotes no particular belief. Therefore, the group demanded the removal of the offending material, and ISU complied, “to avoid litigation”.
Allow me to point out what should be painfully obvious: Not having any faith at all is a form of belief in and of itself. It is the belief that there IS no God. It is the belief that we are just an evolutionary occurrence or the result of some ‘accident’ of the universe. Nonetheless, it IS a belief, if only a belief in nothing at all. By capitulating to the threats of litigation and removing the ‘offending material’ ISU is, in fact, supporting one belief over another. There can be no other conclusion which can be drawn. You see, removing a donated text in favor of ‘nothing’ now forces UNbelief upon those who DO believe. The acceptance of the ‘nothing’ that this group insists be displayed demonstrates a preference over the ‘something’ the Gideons have placed there. It would be best to leave them displayed side by side, as they already lay in the drawer, and let people choose to pick up the Bible, or pick up the ‘nothing’ lying next to it. Removing my Bible and leaving THEIR ‘nothing’ rankles ME.
The Constitution of the United States of America offers no clearly stated freedom FROM religion, as this group seeks. However the Constitution DOES specifically guarantee the freedom OF religion. Furthermore, although ISU is a state-funded institution, no state funds were used to purchase those Bibles. The hotel, which is open to the public, merely provides the same amenities of thousands of hotels and motels throughout this country.
A book, no matter what the book is, should not create such a stir. Anyone who does not believe the Holy Bible is the Word of God does not have to read it, nor does ISU insist it BE read as a contractual condition of occupying one of its rooms. This is NOT school prayer we are talking about, which required active participation in a publically funded school. Still, it was a shameful moment in American history when the judicial system of this country supported the theory that encouraging children to pray was somehow bad. On the other hand, in this case we are talking about a book which is not in plain view and is simply there for the convenience of those who DO wish to read it. It should be a simple matter to just ignore it if it does not conform to your beliefs. The fact it would create such discomfort to anyone by its mere presence in a drawer in a room is disturbing in and of itself.
It is time for those who believe in God to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!” If we keep allowing those who choose to NOT believe in God to constantly push faith farther and farther from public view, it will be just a matter of time before it is illegal to display a symbol of ANY faith in the window of our home or car, or on a t-shirt or a piece of jewelry. Soon our places of worship – churches, mosques, and synagogues – will be denied the right to display any symbol of their religious faith on the exteriors of those buildings because someone walking by on a public sidewalk or driving by on a public street is offended by the mere sight of the symbol of faith. It is time for those who claim to be ‘experts’ at interpreting the Constitution and what was ‘intended’ by the words written, stop and think for a moment about life in the immediate aftermath of the document’s introduction into the American way of life: Prayer, and the Holy Bible, were everywhere one looked. Faith was a cornerstone of the founding of this country, not freedom FROM faith. Whether or not this country was founded as a Christian nation may be open for debate, but the people of this country’s overwhelming adherence to faith of some sort and use of the Bible in daily life at the time of the writing of the Constitution most certainly is not!
Those individuals who believe in nothing might find something more constructive to do with their time and money if they were to READ the Bible and see what it has to say about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and healing the sick. Perhaps they might see it as a source of guidance they can use to learn tolerance and love for others; to help them express their humanity; to help them find ways to focus on those things we have in common rather than on those things which differentiate us.
I am an inmate in a federal prison and I have learned that the ability to deal with the pain and the problems in my life which predicated the need for me to spend time here lies within the pages of the Holy Bible. I am convinced it can be used as a roadmap to salvation for anyone who is willing to take the time to read it. Lives can be changed for the better through its daily use, and lives can be saved by its wisdom and its Hope. Its use should be advocated and promoted, and attempts to suppress the beauty and value of its message should be fought with all available resources. The world needs less ‘nothing’ and more of what the pages of the Bible offer.
I read the Des Moines Register on a regular basis, courtesy of someone I know who is from there. I think it is a great newspaper and I have written with regularity, here in “The Oakdale Chronicles”, about articles and opinions I have seen there. I don’t often feel compelled to offer an opinion contrary to that of the editorial staff, but in this case I must. With all due respect, your opinion needs to be re-examined. Iowa State University and the Des Moines Register took the easy way out, and that is not always the right way.
Look in the Bible. That lesson is in there.
I thank everyone for their time. Be sure to check out my book of daily devotions, “TODAY IS… A Gift From God” at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HKKL1RE
And may God bless you all.
Federal Correctional Center
Oakdale, LA 71463