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In the US, far fewer hotel companies are offering Bibles

In the US, far fewer hotel companies are offering Bibles

A recent survey by STR, a hospitality analytics company, found that the percentage of American hotels that offer religious materials in rooms has dropped significantly over the last decade, from 95 percent in 2006 to 48 percent this year.

One company that has decided not to accommodate Bibles at at two of its newest millennial-oriented hotel brands, Moxy and Edition hotels, is Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company.

Explaining that the Moxy and Edition hotels are geared toward fun-loving millennials, Marriott spokeswoman Felicia Farrar McLemore said:

It’s because the religious books don’t fit the personality of the brands.

Marriott’s decision, according to this report, mirrors others in the industry who are quietly phasing out the long-held tradition of stocking religious material in hotel rooms.

Among the reasons for the change, according to industry experts, is a need to appeal to younger American travelers who are less devout than their parents or grandparents and to avoid offending international travelers such as Muslims or Buddhists.

And then there is this practical issue: Many newer hotel brands install shelves rather than nightstands with drawers next to the bed, making it difficult to be discreet about offering a Bible. A copy of the Scriptures on a bedside shelf makes a more pronounced statement than a Bible slipped into a drawer.

Hotels also have been under pressure lately from atheist groups. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes separation of church and state, wrote to 15 major hotel companies last year, asking them to keep Bibles out of hotel rooms.

The group succeeded in the last year in getting hotels operated by Arizona State University and Northern Illinois University to remove all Bibles from their rooms.

The foundation also created a sticker that reads:

Warning: Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life.

The group has encouraged its supporters to affix the stickers on any hotel room Bible they find.

Said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the group.

We are trying to educate the hotel industry that a quarter of our population is not religious.

STR officials cautioned about reading too much into its survey, noting that managers representing only 2,600 of the more than 8,000 hotels responding to the survey answered the question about religious material in rooms.

Still, industry experts say the changing demographics in America and the surge of international travelers in the US are creating more reasons to keep religious materials out of hotel rooms.

Linchi Kwok, an assistant professor at the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona, said:

A lot of international hotels are trying to reach a very diverse group of travelers, and religion now has become a really sensitive topic.

Bibles started to become a hotel standard in the late 1800s when three traveling businessmen founded Gideons International with a plan to spread the Gospels by placing the Bible in hotel rooms across the country.

The group now has about 270,000 members in 200 countries. In its latest fiscal year, Gideon International spent about $100 million to distribute Bibles to hotels, prisons, hospitals and other locations, about the same amount as in 2015, according to the group’s financial statements.

Jeff Pack, Gideons International’s director of communications, said he isn’t sure why the STR survey shows a decline in religious material in hotel rooms, considering that the distribution of Bibles by his group hasn’t dropped. He commented:

The decline of religious materials in hotels, as cited in the survey, is reflective of increasing secularism and independence in the world. This has resulted in an erosion of spiritual awareness.

Two years ago, Travelodge hotels in Britain removed Bibles from their rooms “in order not to discriminate against any religion,” the company said. Still, the hotels kept copies at the front desk where guests could borrow them upon request.

The parent company of Travelodge, the Wyndham Hotel Group, said the company does not require Bibles in any of its 15 hotel brands worldwide.

Marriott has opened nine Moxy hotels, with at least 40 more hotels under construction or in the planning phase. Four Edition hotels are open and nine others are set to open in the future.

Intercontinental Hotel Group, the giant British company that operates the Holiday Inn brand, among others, doesn’t require managers of its more than 5,000 hotels in nearly 100 countries to put Bibles in each room.

Spokeswoman Caroline Huston said:

Our hotels have the flexibility to offer religious materials to their guests if they choose to do so.

James McKnight, pastor at the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles, said he isn’t offended when he finds his hotel room doesn’t include a Bible. He said that travelers who regularly read the Bible probably already have one with them, either in book or digital form.

I don’t expect the owner of a hotel to have the responsibility to give me the sacred text.

24 responses to “In the US, far fewer hotel companies are offering Bibles”

  1. Club Secretary says:

    $100 million a year to distribute bibles, obviously they can’t think of anything better they could spend it on.

  2. Stephen Mynett says:

    It obviously has not occurred to them that organisations that rely on donations, like Cancer Research and the like could use that money for genuine and beneficial purposes. Of course, so many forms of cancer have been cured by prayer it would seem a waste of money to give it to a mythological belief like science.

  3. Daz says:

    Having argued on t’internet with far too many Bible-readers, while I’m glad that the book isn’t being foisted, unwanted, on hotel guests, I’m saddened that they missed the opportunity to replace them with dictionaries, which, judging from experience, might be of real use to said readers.

  4. Edwin Salter says:

    Why not return a hotel bible pleasantly to the front desk with the remark that “.. it isn’t my belief”?

  5. barriejohn says:

    New Testaments were distributed by the Gideons to all schoolchildren in the area when I was teaching. Two mature and smartly dressed local businessmen would troop into assembly, and, as a condition of donating their pernicious material, give a “testimony” and short “Give yer life to Jesus” sermon. My dad’s friend, who was the one responsible for ensnaring me in the Brethren, was a member, and was constantly pleading with me to join their ranks, but I never did. The Gideons is a blatantly misogynistic organization; wives and other women can’t join, but serve as “auxiliaries”. As others have said, why don’t they do something useful with their time and money?

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/The_Gideons

    (PS Pity the Bill Hicks video is no longer available. Does anyone know of another link?)

  6. Leonard Ostrander says:

    I always rid my hotel rooms the unwanted book of nonsense. Sometimes i even take them to the front desk, but usually i destroy them and drop the remains in the trash.

  7. Paul says:

    I always wondered why hotel rooms needed bibles but then not all hotels have toilet paper do they.

  8. Colin Davidson says:

    I complained politely to the Premier Inn back in July. The letter is below. I actually got a reply from Guest Relations saying that my comments had been passed to the ‘Hotel Management’ for ‘consideration’. Needless to say I heard nothing back and sent them a reminder just now after reading this article. I appreciate that some will find my mail too polite – especially the last paragraph – but I figured that starting from the moral high ground would be a better position to develop any ensuing conversation.

    Could I ask a anyone reading this to complain to the Premier Inn as well?

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am writing with regard to the booking referenced in the subject line of this email. I recently stayed at your Cardiff North property and I am pleased to say that the service, quality and value for money were all excellent and that my expectations were more than met.

    I noted during my stay that the Premier Inn continues to adopt the traditional approach of providing a Christian Bible in each room and I would like to express my views on this matter. In particular I would like to make 3 points which suggest grounds for reconsidering your current policy.

    1. As a non-Christian I feel that the provision of Bibles in your rooms implies that your non-Christian guests are not valued as much of those who are members of Christian denominations. I am sure that this is not your intent but nevertheless it is a real consequence that I strongly feel should be considered by the Premier Inn organization. I am sure that you place equal value on all your guests and that you would wish all of them to feel that the hospitality extended by you is the same regardless of their beliefs.
    2. It is relevant, I feel, to note that the trend in British social attitudes continues to see a broad decline in Christianity with only some 44% of the population in England and Wales identifying with the religion (see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/23/no-religion-outnumber-christians-england-wales-study as one example). It is salutary to note that this is part of a steady decline in Christian belief in the UK – noting also that the National Centre for Social Research, which provided the data for the Guardian report, records a figure of 55% of the population claiming to be Christian in the year 2000.
    3. Britain is a country which rightly prides itself as being at the forefront of a number of core values including the freedoms of belief, conscience and speech while protecting the rights of equality for all under the law. While the country retains some insitutionalised Christian privileges (such as the Church of England remaining a branch of the State) it is quite clear that the UK holds the rights of people of all faiths and none to be equal. This is something which I feel we can be particularly proud of and, having lived in the Middle East for a number of years where such rights are routinely denied, I feel that our public and private institutions benefit greatly from demonstrating this great strength to visitors from overseas who often live in countries where the respect for their individual rights is compromised.

    Accordingly, I would like to ask you to review your policy on Christian Bibles on the basis that it potentially sends the wrong message to non-Christian customers as to how welcome they are, given the demographic trend of the country there is no doubt the majority of your customers are not Christians and thus have no need for Bibles, and finally it is not aligned with equality and fairness for all that the UK stands for.

    I do feel that the Premier Inn would benefit from taking advantage of current trends by instead ensuring each Property has a selection of religious and non-religious texts available for customers and which customers can request at their own discretion. This would be an inclusive and welcoming approach which no doubt would broaden the appeal of your brand.

    In the meantime I look forward to supporting the Premier Inn with my future custom (which will continue regardless of your Bible policy) although I do hope that this mail finds some resonance with your Customer Service and Marketing departments.

    Best regards

  9. barriejohn says:

    From Saturday Night Live:

    https://youtu.be/UjGFHL1wqhY

    (No luck with Bill Hicks!)

  10. barriejohn says:

    Colin Davidson: I think I might have been a bit more direct! Anyone of a religious bent would carry their personal religious reading matter with them, just as I might have something by Professor Hawking or Christopher Hitchens to read whilst away from home. What they are saying is that their religion trumps any other, and that is why only Bibles are provided. The Gideons don’t want people to merely read the book; there are “Bible helps”, etc., which are designed to “lead people to Christ”, and that’s the important bit, not the “Word of God”. It’s just shameless proselytizing, and they know it.

    http://blog.gideons.org/2010/12/the-bible-contains-the-mind-of-god/

    It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

  11. Bill Bonk says:

    Every time I stayed in a hotel, and I have stayed in a great many, the bible ends up in the trash. I dont mean the waster paper bin. I mean the dumpsters out back.

  12. AgentCormac says:

    @Colin Davidson
    Good letter, and well done indeed for sending it. Religious twaddle shouldn’t be tolerated in what are essentially public places.

    As for Linchi Kwok’s assertion in the article that ‘religion now has become a really sensitive topic’ – I’d have thought ‘a really toxic topic’ would have been closer to the mark.

  13. Paul says:

    Agent cormac an hotel isn’t a
    Public place.

  14. Broga says:

    @Colin Davidson: I liked your well argued letter supported by facts.

  15. Corvus says:

    I like to write “BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS 3rd Edition” on the covers of bibles.

  16. AgentCormac says:

    Sorry to go OT, and apologies to anyone here who may be a Ukipper, but they say a picture speaks a thousand words. If I had an image of Bob Hutton in my head, this seriously wouldn’t be far off the mark:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154896072477125&set=gm.1652691745029218&type=3&theater

  17. StephenJP says:

    @Leonard Ostrander and Bill Bonk:I am glad to greet two kindred spirits. I have removed Gideon bibles from hotel rooms around the world, and consigned them to the local recyclable waste.

    @Colin Davidson: a wonderfully written and argued letter, but rather above the literacy level of Premier Inns Customer Services Dept, I suspect. Interested to learn of any response, but not holding my breath.

  18. Cali Ron says:

    “The decline of religious materials in hotels, as cited in the survey, is reflective of increasing secularism and independence in the world. This has resulted in an erosion of spiritual awareness.” Actually, it’s an increase in spiritual awareness that has led to a decline in religious belief.

  19. Bill Bonk says:

    CR … what the hell is SPIRITUAL AWARENESS? Any talk of the spirit or spiritual awareness is just guff propagated and embedded in the lexicon by those who profit from the notions of the supernatural for smuggling in the notion of a soul. There is no separate soul that survives the body. There is just the brain and its self-awareness. There is no soul and anyone who uses the terms spirit or spiritual awareness is doing the work of the pious for them.

  20. barriejohn says:

    Bill Bonk: I think we have a problem with language because of our tradition of religious belief. I believe in the human spirit, but not in the way that the religious do. A real problem occurs when we speak of famous composers and artists being inspired, because that word derives directly from religious conceptions (God breathing into Man):

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=inspiration

    I don’t know how we can really get around this without inventing a whole new language.

  21. barriejohn says:

    PS Professor Dawkins has something to say on the subject of “human purpose”, “human spirit”, etc., here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/atheism/people/dawkins.shtml

    I am very suspicious – we keep coming back to this – of uses of words like ‘spirit’, which I’m happy to use as long as it doesn’t suggest anything supernatural or ghostly.

  22. Brian Jordan says:

    “to avoid offending international travelers such as Muslims or Buddhists”
    Says it all: money speaks. Not that I’ve heard of Buddhists complaining of being offended. Atheists, of course, are beneath consideration.

  23. Stephen Mynett says:

    Buddhism is not the religion of peace many people see it as, by no means as intolerant or violent as some but the situation in Myanmar shows they can be as bloody and bloody-minded as the rest. There has been Buddhist violence in Sri Lanka recently as well.

    I cannot remember when and where I saw it but it was a very old documentary film about Tibet and it showed monks flogging a poor bloke as punishment for some crime, so even the home of the popular Dalai Lama is not without religious violence.

    It seems as if there is some sort of one-upmanship between faiths to see which can be the most intolerant and violent. Christianity was the clear leader centuries back but now all trail Islam by a country mile.

    I would like to think there will not be another faith to take the crown but am by no means convinced, when you look at many of the Christian evangelists these days it seems they are secretly jealous of what some in Islam are doing and wish they had the power the church had years ago.

  24. Cali Ron says:

    BB: “CR … what the hell is SPIRITUAL AWARENESS?” I was referring to becoming aware that spirituality comes from inside you and has nothing to do with god or religion, and that realization leads people away from religions, who have tried to monopolize the word. I should have elaborated since my concept of spirituality is different from the standard religious use.

    I prefer this definition of spirituality from http://www.theosophical.org: “Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.” Ex: when I’m playing the harmonica with my fellow musician friends and it’s all flowing together beautifully, each of us in harmony with each other and the music I get a feeling of pure joy and satisfaction that is for me spiritual (I recently played a rendition of Ray Charles “Georgia” where I was so in the moment and the music that my solo literally brought tears to my friends eyes-that was a spiritual moment for me). When I held my child the first time after birth it was a spiritual moment for me. These spiritual moments give meaning to my life, not because of anything having to do with the supernatural, but because these are the moments when I connect with something bigger than me, something whose whole is greater than the sum of the parts .