Representatives distribute Bibles near college campus

Bibles handed out by people affiliated with Gideons International, an organization based in Nashville, Tennesee, appeared across Allegheny’s campus on Oct. 19.

Two were found at Brooks Dining Hall, and others were found around the George M. Henderson Campus Center, among other locations.

Gideons International affiliate Bill Sommers stood on the sidewalk by North Main Street, handing out copies of the Bible to people passing by. He explained the organization’s goal in handing out copies of the Bible.

“[It is] to reach lost souls for Jesus Christ by handing out a copy of his word,” Sommers said.

Garth Valesky stood across the street, next to Reis Hall.

“Gideons has been around since 1900,” Valesky said. “You see the Bibles in the hotel rooms, we also distribute those. So we’re nondenominational, we have to be a born-again professing Christian and we hand out Bibles.”

Valesky said Gideons have been handing out Bibles on Allegheny’s campus for many years.

“I’ve been at Gideon for over twenty years, and we’ve been doing it ever since I’ve been at Gideon,” Valesky said.

The Bibles handed out did not include the entire work, but only the sections known as the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.

“These are cost-effective, we can get more distributed this way,” Valesky said. “But in hotel rooms, doctors offices and stuff, it’s the full Bible.”

Sommers talks to Allegheny’s Office of Public Safety when the men hand out Bibles, according to Valesky

“We stay on public sidewalk, you know, which is totally legal,” Valesky said. “We usually do let somebody know from security that we’re going to be here just so there’s no problems.”

Sharon Wesoky, professor of political science, said she noticed people handing out Bibles during the 2016 academic year. She said she called Allegheny’s Department of Public Safety.

“I understand we have a free country, but I felt concern for students who might be intimidated or pressured by that,” Wesoky said.

Wesoky challenged the assertion that the Gideons were on public property.

“I’ve been discussing with various people … about whether or not Allegheny is a private property and in terms of restricting that or not,” Wesoky said.

Wesoky voiced her concerns the Gideons were possibly violating the college’s Statement of Community.

“I also feel concern because there are multiple religions in this country, and some of their principles really violate our statement of community,” Wesoky said.