How to Counter Gideon Bibles in Hotels and Schools

Atheists and Secularists Should Oppose Privileging Christianity and the Bible

Hotel Bible
Hotel Bible. George Diebold Photography/The Image Bank/Getty

The Gideons International distribute Bibles all over the world. They don't do this to educate people about the Bible or even to provide Bibles to those who otherwise can't afford to purchase one themselves. The purpose of the Gideons is, in their words, to "win men, women, boys, and girls to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ." They exist solely to evangelize Christianity and convert people to believe in their God.

You can take a stand against the Gideons when their actions are rude or even break the law.

Gideon Bibles in Hotels & Motels

You're most likely encounter with Gideon Bibles will be in motels and hotels. Their presence certainly isn't illegal, but it does represent an unambiguous form of preferential treatment for Christianity. It might not be so bad if religious scriptures from a variety of religions were provided on an equal basis. Things to do:

  • Request a Bible-Free Room: Owners are expected to keep Bibles in every room, but if you ask for a Bible-free room you can get one. This might sound petty since if you aren't interested in the Bible, you can just ignore it, but it's important to remember that hotels are unjustly assuming that guests would want a Bible in the first place. It's not petty to object to Christian beliefs and Christian scriptures being singled out for privileged treatment. If they won't remove the Bible or you just forget to ask, there are other steps you can take that are just as effective or perhaps even more so.
  • Warning Stickers: There are warning stickers you can place in the Bible to send a message to future readers and perhaps make an impact on their thinking. There are also warning stickers about the Gideons themselves. If you don't want to go so far as putting a sticker on the Bible, you can just leave a freethought bookmark in it.
  • Write a Letter: Whatever happens, writing a formal letter to hotel management is a good idea. Your goal should be to explain to them that don't appreciate the company giving privileged treatment to Christianity generally or the Gideons in particular. Not all their customers are Christians, after all, and non-Christians shouldn't be told like this that they aren't as important as Christian customers.

Gideon Bibles in Hospitals, Nursing Homes

Both public and private medical facilities receive visits from the Gideons to distribute Bibles to patients and in the rooms. People who are ill, old, weak, and alone are easy targets for evangelists promising heaven but who never actually have to deliver anything while people are still alive to collect — or complain. This is unfortunate, but Christian evangelists have a long tradition of such behavior. In Catholic hospitals, you may face not just a Bible but a crucifix hanging prominently on the wall.

If you are in such a facility, it may be difficult for you to object simply because of your condition. It is a good idea to let your family know about your feelings in advance so that they can effectively and accurately represent you when you are unable to do so yourself. This might not be as serious as an advance medical directive, but it's worth including in the same package of information. By the same token, you should be vigilant about providing the same help to friends and family who feel like you do.

Gideon Bibles in Public Schools

There was a time when it was common for the Gideons to enter public schools during school hours and distribute Bibles to students. This favoritism towards Christianity was blatantly unconstitutional and, over time, most schools have stopped the practice — but not all. It's amazing that any schools today would still think that it is OK to have outside religious groups come in and distribute Bibles to students, but such incidents still make the news occasionally.

  • Document Everything: First, make sure you know who is responsible for what's going on and what all the relevant policies are. Second, document every step you take, every communication, and everything you are told. If it comes to a lawsuit, your records may be invaluable.
  • Organize: It's best to be prepared, so start talking to people about the issue. Local freethought and atheist groups are a good place to start, but you should approach liberal churches and non-Christian houses of worship as well. The broader the support is, the better your chances of making a difference.
  • Contact the Administration: Once you know what's going on and aren't alone in your objections, it's time to approach the school administration. Don't be hostile, but explain to them how their policies violate the law and ask that the Gideons not be accorded any special privileges.
  • Offer Alternatives: Sometimes supporters of Christian privileges reverse course when others take advantage of them, so if the school doesn't stop privileging the Gideons you can request that other groups get the same benefits. Can you imagine the outcry if a freethought group even requested permission to distribute Freethought literature in public schools, much less were allowed to? What if communists asked to distribute the Communist Manifesto? What if Muslims asked to distribute copies of the Qur'an or a biography of Muhammad?

Any privileging of Christianity or the Bible in public schools is illegal — courts have held this to be the case repeatedly all over the country. School officials have two choices: admit other religious and secular groups to distribute material on the same basis, or stop the Gideons from coming in. If the school refuses to do either, they will stand almost no chance in a lawsuit.


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Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "How to Counter Gideon Bibles in Hotels and Schools." Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, Cline, Austin. (2021, February 8). How to Counter Gideon Bibles in Hotels and Schools. Retrieved from Cline, Austin. "How to Counter Gideon Bibles in Hotels and Schools." Learn Religions. (accessed May 29, 2023).