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Bible at Olympics: Mixed reports circulate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Chinese government seems to be sending mixed messages about religion and religious freedom during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and conflicting reports have clouded the issue of the legality of Bibles at the Olympics.

The most recent information indicates that Bibles will be allowed at the Olympics, but that each visitor to China will be allowed to bring in only one Bible.

This follows an AP story from early September, in which Olympics officials in Beijing said they planned to build a multi-faith worship center in the Olympic Village.

“All will be arranged in accordance with the practices … adopted by other Olympic host cities,” Liu Bainian, vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said in the official China Daily newspaper, as quoted in the AP story.

On Nov. 2, however, the Catholic News Agency reported that Bibles were among the objects prohibited in the Olympic Village.

The CNA story cited the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport report that Olympic organizers cited “security reasons” for outlawing any religious symbols at Olympic facilities.

Five days later, however, CNA published an updated report indicating that visitors to Beijing are being told to take only one Bible with them into the country. The updated CNA account cited the official policy from the Beijing Olympics website, which clearly states that “Each traveller is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China.”

An AP story dated Nov. 7 reported that the U.S. Olympic Committee is investigating the matter. According to the story, USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said the USOC hadn’t found anything to indicate that Bibles would be prohibited at the Olympics.

Seibel said the USOC had contacted the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee to confirm that Bibles were not on the list of prohibited objects, and was awaiting a response.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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