There are so many Religious Right legal ministries with such similar sounding, Orwellian names that they can be difficult to keep straight. One such group, the American Center for Law and Justice (Big Brother would be so proud), pulls in tens of millions of dollars every year by scaring Christian Americans into believing that they are being persecuted.
Lately, ACLJ has been spending a lot of time talking about the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s success in removing Gideon bibles from public university hotels and FFRF’s consumer action asking the 15 largest hotel chains in this country to stop stocking Gideon bibles in every room. Using fear and deceit, ACLJ is twisting these two separate efforts in order to squeeze a few more pennies from its supporters.
Here are a few of ACLJ’s deceptions.
ACLJ says: “In fact, FFRF is comparing the Bible to the health and safety dangers of smoking. FFRF actually says that the Bible ‘may endanger your health and life.’”
Nope: Actually, our bible warning labels say: “Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life.” FFRF developed this language in response to several biblically inspired tragedies, such as the Pennsylvania who man took Jesus’s command in Matthew 5:29-30 literally and “cut off his hand and gouged out his eye after reading the scriptures,” according to reports. So if one does belief the bible literally, it might indeed endanger one’s health:
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matt 5:29-30.
It seems that ACLJ’s real problem might lie with the content of the book, not their truncated version of our sticker.
ACLJ says: “Angry Atheists Demand Hotels Ban the Bible”
Nope: This is wrong on several counts. First, “angry”? C’mon ACLJ. I’ll challenge anyone to listen to one of my interviews with Jesse Lee Peterson and still say that atheists are angry. But more importantly, no, we have not sought to “ban the bible.” Even Snopes.com had to point out that ACLJ is wrong on this one.
We have done two separate things. First, we have explained to several public universities that allowing the Gideon’s to place bibles in their publicly run hotels is an unconstitutional promotion of religion. Legally speaking, this is straightforward constitutional violation. That’s why the universities removed the bibles. FFRF did not demand a bible ban; the Constitution bans private religious groups from using public resources to promote their particular brand of religion—FFRF merely pointed that out. If anything, ACLJ has a problem with the Establishment Clause.
Second, as consumers representing our members and other freethinking Americans, FFRF asked that the major hotel chains not promote a book that calls for stoning of blasphemers, the execution of homosexuals, and the silence and subjugation of women. This is not a legal complaint, this is a consumer “request.”
Even if we had the power, we wouldn’t ban the bible. In fact, we wish ACLJ president Jay Sekulow and his supporters would actually read the bible. Isaac Asimov was right when he observed: “Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” We just don’t want literature that calls for our death in a hotel room. Think about it like this ACLJ, would you want a Qu’ran in every room you stay in?
ACLJ says: “And they want bible-free hotel rooms and what they’d like put in place is actually a Darwin’s Origin of the Species. So they want the bible banned and they want the Origin of the Species put in its place.” ACLJ also said, “They want to replace the bible with their version of the bible. It’s not like they’re like, ‘We’re going to call for just nothing.’”
Nope: Actually, “nothing” in the rooms is exactly what we’ve called for. The original source that ACLJ twisted to come up with this fable is an FFRF press release. But that release makes it clear FFRF is not asking for Darwin to replace the bible (though it would be more educational). That press release begins by likening the bible to an invasive species and then later jokingly refers to Origin:
An invasive species is defined as “not native to a specific location and which has a tendency to spread to a degree which causes damage in some respect upon exposure.” You could say that sounds a lot like Gideon bibles in a bedstand drawer. … As an organization whose members embrace reason and science, FFRF would prefer placement of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” to the invasive Gideons (though the letter doesn’t request that).
Can it be any more clear that we’re not actually asking for a substitution?
If you watch that full broadcast of ACLJ’s show (be prepared to see grown men alternately groveling for money and intimidating their audience), you can see that the ACLJ understands these differences. It seems unlikely that Sekulow is incompetent or stupid. But it’s either that, or he and his organization are deliberately deceiving their supporters. They probably grasp the differences in our consumer and legal complaints and they know the difference between banning the bible entirely and simply removing it from hotel rooms, but the truth does not play into their lucrative Christian persecution narrative. The truth does not scare people into donating money to ACLJ. The truth does not enrich Jay Sekulow. Then again, perhaps they really are so obtuse or so befuddled by the need to feel persecuted that they don’t understand these simple differences.
Incidentally, the ACLJ completely undercut its legal arguments about bibles in public university hotel rooms during this broadcast. They note that the bible is widely available, showing that there is no need to have it in the room. Then they have on a gentleman who explains how he uses the bible to proselytize hotel staff. So the bible is not necessary in rooms and it is used to proselytize.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a tough issue. The bible is barbaric. It calls for the death and consignment to hell of anyone who doesn’t believe the myths it contains. We don’t think companies should promote such an alienating message to customers. That’s it. Claiming anything else is either willful ignorance or deliberate fear-mongering. Either way, ACLJ should be ashamed.