Religion is a very tricky topic in modern America. Ideally, there would be a simple way to make everyone feel accepted and accommodated. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Event professions are tasked with tactfully balancing appeasing non-religious individuals and those who practice a wide variety of religions.

An enduring symbol of religion in the United States is the Bible in the drawer at hotels, motels and inns. Since the turn of the 20th century, this accommodation has been as commonplace as hand soap. However, a 2016 survey by the hospitality analytics company STR found that over the last decade, Bibles are disappearing from hotel rooms. As recently as 2006, they could be found in 95 percent of hotels. By the end of 2016, this rate plummeted to 48 percent.

There are a few reasons for this massive shift. One is that hotels want to appeal to younger travelers. For instance, Marriott International properties supply the Bible and Book of Mormon in their guest rooms—except in their millennial-focused brands Moxy and Edition, which are Bible-free.

The shift could also be due to logistical issues. Shelves have been preferred over nightstands in many new hotels, making it difficult to discreetly put Bibles in guest rooms.  Perhaps the most significant reason is that hotels want to avoid offending or upsetting guests, especially international travelers.

Plan Ahead

Depending on your specific group, it might be wise to consider how hotels deal with this topic when planning a meeting or event. If you are a planner for a religious group, then this decision may be especially important as you may wish to choose a hotel, and location, with aligned values.

Photo credit: Provenance Hotels

Some hotels have come up with innovative solutions. The boutique hotel company Provenance Hotels, offers a unique alternative to having Bibles in the drawers—a “spiritual menu.” Since 2009, the hotel has allowed guest to request a complimentary copy of any religious text for the duration of their stay.

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Portland, Oregon, also employs an interesting alternative. It offers a “quiet room” on the property’s fifth floor, allowing anyone to express their spirituality, whether it be through meditation, prayer or even deep reflection. In the quiet space, there is a small bookshelf with a Bible, Quran and a yoga mat.

Meeting and Event Tips

Here are some suggestions for planners looking for ways to make a meeting religiously, and non-religiously, tolerant.

  • Be mindful of all religious holidays. Don’t plan a meeting or event on the day, or even weekend, of a big religious holiday.
  • Offer a vegetarian option—it accommodates Hindus (no beef), Buddhists (no meat), Muslims (no pork) and Jews (kosher).
  • If you know attendees might have different religions, try not to link the party to one religious holiday. Or if you do, make sure other religions are acknowledged. For instance, a Christmas-themed party may instead choose a winter theme, or it could also incorporate aspects of Chanukah and Kwanza.
  • If a religiously-affiliated charity is involved, offer alternative contributions as well.
  • When working with a specific religious group, make sure you know the particulars about their customs, including any restrictions and special accommodations that may be necessary. Including a question about religious accommodations in a pre-event questionnaire might be one way to resolve this.
  • Have a zero-tolerance policy for any type of discrimination.