The nationwide hotel chain Travelodge has removed Bibles from all of its rooms, in a move criticised by the Church of England.
Bibles provided free by the Gideons have been taken away to avoid discriminating against any other religion.
The removals reportedly took place after refurbishment work across the hotel chain, which replaced the drawers where Bibles were being kept.
In response, a spokesman for the Church of England said: “It seems both tragic and bizarre that hotels would remove the word of God for the sake of ergonomic design” or “economic incentive”.
Writing on the Telegraph website, commentator Tim Stanley described Travelodge’s decision as “an act of cultural vandalism upon a tradition that goes back 126 years”.
In an official statement Travelodge said: “Travelodge made the decision to move copies of the Bible from its hotel rooms and place them at reception for customers to borrow in 2007.
“This decision was based on customer research and the fact that we live in a multicultural society. Therefore in order not to discriminate against any religion, customers who would like a Bible can pick a copy from any one of Travelodge’s 500 hotel reception desks across the country, whilst staying at the hotel”.
Travelodge is the only hotel chain in the country to have removed the Bibles, despite having never received a complaint from a guest.
Both Premier Inn and InterContinental Hotels, who own the Holiday Inn chain, say that Bibles are being retained in their hotels.
A spokesman for Premier Inn said: “On the rare occasion that a customer does not wish to have a Bible in their room, they can request this to be removed ahead of their stay”.
The practice of placing Bibles in hotel rooms dates back over 120 years, originating with the work of the Commercial Travellers’ Christian Association.
In recent times, the work of distributing Bibles in hotels has been taken up by The Gideons International, which provides this service to over 190 countries worldwide.