Culture War Faith

Religious Freedom Under Attack: Bibles Banned in Georgia

Gideons International, renowned for its longstanding practice of distributing Bibles, faces exclusion from the Phoebe Putney Health System in rural Georgia due to the implementation of new diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies. Despite maintaining a collaborative relationship for years, Gideons has been barred from servicing the health system’s hospitals for several months. This development, occurring in a region often referred to as the “belt buckle” of the Bible belt, raises concerns about the intersection of DEI initiatives and religious freedom.

Founded in 1899, Gideons International has distributed over 2 billion Bibles globally, transcending language barriers to deliver its message to diverse communities. The organization’s efforts extend beyond hospitals to encompass hotels, jails, and other institutions. However, its exclusion from the Phoebe Putney Health System represents a departure from the longstanding tradition of offering spiritual comfort to individuals during times of illness or distress.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Gideons faced initial restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic response and was subsequently denied access based on purported violations of the health system’s DEI policy. This decision, labeled as “anti-Christian” by insiders, underscores broader concerns about the misuse of DEI frameworks to marginalize religious groups rather than fostering genuine inclusivity.

Despite repeated requests for comments, neither Phoebe’s communications team nor its chief DEI officer provided a response. The exclusion of Gideons from Phoebe facilities, however, has not escaped the attention of CEO Scott Steiner and several members of the health system’s board. Steiner’s advocacy for DEI principles, evident since assuming leadership in 2019, has coincided with a shift in hospital policies towards left-leaning ideologies.

The emphasis on diversity initiatives within Phoebe, exemplified by the appointment of a diversity and inclusion officer, reflects a broader trend in the healthcare industry. While efforts to promote diversity and combat unconscious bias are commendable, critics argue that such initiatives should not compromise fundamental principles of religious freedom and merit-based hiring practices. The exclusion of Gideons International underscores the need for a balanced approach that respects diverse perspectives while upholding core values of inclusivity and respect for religious beliefs.

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