ST. LOUIS — A new Missouri Guardsman who isn’t Christian said he felt pressured to accept a free camouflage Bible during a recent military recruitment process in St. Louis.
The American Humanist Association has threatened to sue the Guard and the U.S. General Services Administration over the matter.
In a nine-page letter sent by email this week first reported by the Army Times newspaper, the Humanist group alleges the government is violating the First Amendment by distributing Gideon Bibles to military recruits.
Humanists, devout advocates of the separation of church and state, reject supernatural concepts. They preach the importance of humanity and derive truth from science.
In an effort to spread the Christian “good news,” Gideon International claims to have distributed nearly 2 billion Bibles around the world in the past century.
The free camouflage Bibles in question are often easy to find at U.S. military installations.
According to the letter sent this week, the new guardsman, who hasn’t been identified, said he wasn’t comfortable with Bibles being offered to recruits like him in July at a GSA office at 1222 Spruce St.
“In light of the coercive atmosphere of the recruitment office, our client felt pressured to take a free Bible,” the letter states.
David Niose, legal director for the American Humanist Association, said Friday there are more atheists in
foxholes than one would assume.
He pointed to a 2012 report by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers that listed the following religious affiliations in the military: 49 percent of people identified themselves as Protestant; 20 percent Catholic; 22.5 percent no religious preference; 7 percent unknown; 1 percent other; less than 1 percent atheist.
“There hasn’t been any affirmative effort that we are aware of to include other religions,” Niose said of the materials offered at the GSA office on Spruce Street.
But he added: “As we’ve learned more about this issue, we’ve found that it’s not exclusive to St. Louis.”
As of Friday morning, the Humanist group hadn’t received a response from the Guard and GSA.