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Anchors Aweigh, Cowards: U.S. Navy Reauthorizing Gideons Bibles on Facilities?

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The United States Navy is equipped to take down any enemy around the globe and is, by far, the most formidable seaborne fighting force known in the history of humankind. It’s larger than the next 13 navies of other countries combined, and no credible military threat exists on the planet that’s capable of realistically surmounting the massive killing capacity of the American fleet. Why, then, does such a feared force slink away in abject cowardice when it comes to upholding the U.S. Uniformed Services sworn Constitutional oath which all officers and NCOs are bound to solemnly affirm? Aren’t all armed forces personnel bound by the once-sacrosanct commitment to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic? 

Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case. This truly pathetic state of affairs was illustrated just late yesterday (August 14, 2014) by the abrupt and exceedingly wretched capitulation by the U.S. Navy to the shadowy forces of domestic religious extremism. Indeed, the powerful Christian fundamentalist lobby has successfully fought to make Gideons Bibles a permanent, proselytizing fixture in the global network of U.S. Navy-administered, federally funded, military installation lodging facilities or hotels.

The drama played out earlier this week when a critically important directive from senior Navy leadership was initially made public. This new Navy order, announced by Naval Exchange Service Commander (NEXCOM) Rear Admiral Robert J. Bianchi, stipulated that Gideons Bibles would no longer be allowed in the rooms of the 34 Naval Lodges and 24,000 rooms at Navy Gateway Inns and Suites located throughout the entirety of the United States Navy. The removal came after a complaint was submitted by our allies at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) – NOT to be confused with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( MRFF), the civil rights organization that I lead. 

However, almost immediately after Admiral Bianchi’s Constitutionally laudable directive had been announced, the all too predictable and abominable refrain of a faux “war on Christianity” rang fully throughout the Dominionist Christian echo chamber. Quite expectedly, once the Navy’s senior leadership caught wind of the disingenuous cry that “Lord Jesus had a hard time getting a room at the inn, and now, His Holy Word will no longer be welcome either,” they "turned about” 180 degrees and took off like terrified terriers with their tails between their scrambling legs.  The Navy suddenly reversed its merely 3-day-old prior decision and is now “temporarily” placing the Bibles back in the lodges while it takes a breather to figure out what the final "new policy" going forward will be. Uh huh. Yeah, let’s just call it what it is: C-O-W-A-R-D-I-C-E!

Sure, the re-placement of the Gideons Bibles is “temporary.” If you believe that, then I’ve got a beach bungalow in Mosul, Iraq to sell you.

As the frontline civil rights force ensuring Constitutional compliance within the byzantine, insular and xenophobic culture of the U.S. Military, MRFF has been fighting for the removal of the Gideons Bibles from all service branches' installation Lodges for the better part of the last decade. In 2012 MRFF succeeded in forcing the DoD to remove official U.S. Military emblems from the Holman Military Bibles being sold in military base exchanges worldwide. MRFF knows all too well the ultra-tribal, adversarial, communal and ritualistic nature of our nation’s military “ethnicity.” We’ve received literally hundreds of these specific complaints from MRFF clients every year about the unsolicited planting of these Gideons Bibles. MRFF's years of aggressive advocacy to remove these Gideons Bibles from armed forces base lodges likely aided nontrivially in the passage of the initial directive, which followed the formal complaint courageously submitted by the FRFF. Considering the foregoing, you can appreciate the absurd headline of one fundamentalist Christian article regarding the issue: “Mikey Weinstein Strikes Again!”