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A Bible in Every Hotel Room—or Not

Man Takes Umbrage, Hotel Removes Offending Items


GIDEONSBIBLE: I’ve been in hotel rooms all over the world and seldom peered into a bedside table drawer unless it was to look for a phone book or bottle opener. What I usually found, at least in the U.S., were Bibles. After a visitor named Diego Costa wrote me, taking great offense at finding a Bible in a Santa Barbara motel, I learned that Gideons International has distributed 1.5 billion copies of “the good book,” mostly in hotel and motel rooms, in 80 languages and 190 countries, since 1908.

Barney Brantingham

Costa, who describes himself as a PhD researcher in cinematic arts at USC, said, “When I decided to spend my birthday in Santa Barbara (I turned 30! In L.A. years, which is where I live, that is about 50, and in gay years, it’s probably 80) with my boyfriend, I did not know I’d start changing the world one hotel at a time.

“Every time my boyfriend and I go on vacation the ‘bed’ seems to be an issue. In most countries, the hotel assumes we want two beds because we are two males. This causes an awkward situation, for them at least, when we get to the room and realize it has two beds.

“Out of principle I always ask for a room with just one bed, even if it’s smaller—to go against the hotel’s assumption that everyone is heterosexual.

“This time … there was no bed issue, but there was a bible in the bedside table drawer in the room. As a non-straight person, I feel that is as offensive as keeping a copy of Mein Kampf in a room where a Jewish couple checks into.

“I object because the bible has been used, historically, as an exclusionary tool. As a gay man, specifically, the bible symbolizes a history of violence and hatred against people ‘like me.’ With Prop. 8 being taken up by the courts right now, this is the perfect zeitgeist to revisit this ‘standard procedure’ of leaving bibles in hotel rooms along with the heterosexist assumptions inherent to that practice.

“When you leave a bible in a room for someone who’s paying a lot of money to be there, you assume the guest will like that object, perhaps read it or, at least, take solace in the knowledge of its presence.

“But I am paying just as much money as the [presumed Christian] hetero couple who might stay in the room … The question should be, ‘Why have a bible in a hotel room?’ not, ‘Why not have a bible in a hotel room?’”

“Out of principle I always ask for a room with just one bed, even if it’s smaller—to go against the hotel’s assumption that everyone is heterosexual.”

As Costa checked out, he told the front desk person about his concern. It would be passed on to the supervisor, he was told. “I didn’t think anything would happen,” Costa said, “but less than one hour after I left the hotel, the concierge called my cell to let me know that was just a standard practice for hotels from the 19th century and that since nobody had ever complained about the bible, they kept them in each room through the years.

“He also told me they would be taking every single bible out of every single room not only from the hotel I stayed in but from other hotels they owned in the area.”

Who knows, it could catch on. If you think Costa’s going too far, remember the old saying that racism and intolerance reach a peak at 11 a.m. on Sundays.

OH THAT EMAIL: Josh Lynn’s fate as chief south country trial deputy at the District Attorney’s Office was sealed when he became a “renegade,” according to a source close to the DA’s office. When Lynn, who lost the DA’s race to fellow prosecutor Joyce Dudley, sent a mass county email to the staff falsely claiming to have been “suspended,” and went to the news media trashing Dudley and acting DA Ann Bramsen, the latter had no alternative but to fire him, my source said. Dudley was sworn into office Tuesday, June 22, to cheers. Lynn has kept a low profile, and it’s widely believed that he had no intention of serving under the command of Dudley after they’d tangled with one another so bitterly during the campaign.

LAKE LAS VEGAS: Out driving one day, Sue and I discovered this desert oasis a half-hour from Sin City, not realizing that it was built by a Santa Barbaran. The 3,600-acre Lake Las Vegas resort, a pretend Italian village on a manmade lake, was the brainchild of Ron Boeddeker. Alas, the $4 billion project, hit by the recession, fell into bankruptcy two years ago. Santa Barbara-born Boeddeker died here Saturday, June 19, at 71.

HOT AND COLD: Described as “Agatha Christie meets 42nd Street,” Curtains is a Broadway song-dance-mystery show that’s full of brash energy and clever lyrics. The show is hot, but be sure to dress warmly when you take in the PCPA Theaterfest show at Solvang’s open-air Festival Theater. I got a kick out of Ethel Merman-esque Kitty Balay playing the brassy producer, and Erik Stein as the flamboyant English director.

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