The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) received confirmation from Olympic officials Wednesday, November 7th, 2008 that there will be no restrictions on Bibles being brought into the Olympic village in Beijing next year.
“We have heard from the IOC and there will be no restriction on athletes bringing the Bible or any other religious book into the village for their personal use.”
— Darryl Seibel
U.S. Olympic Committee Spokesman
Organizers of the Beijing Olympics claim the ban was never in place and that religious texts and symbols were intended to be allowed “for personal use” – i.e. you won’t be arrested unless you give a Bible, Qur’an or similar text to a Chinese person.
I have my doubts about the truth of this claim by the Chinese officials. They did not refute the allegations until confronted by the USOC, and until a US Senator demanded an explanation for this wrong-headed behavior from the Chines Ambassador to the US. China’s atheist government does not have a an even marginally good record for maintaining religious freedom.
China’s officially atheist government grudgingly permits religious observance, but allows worship only in Communist Party-controlled churches, temples and mosques. Worship outside that official structure, such as at Tibetan Buddhist retreats or home churches, is banned, and organizers face harassment, arrest and terms in labor camps or prison.
Beijing has also reportedly expelled more than 100 foreign missionaries in what critics say is an effort to tighten control on non State-controlled Christian home churches prior to the 2008 Olympics.
Because of all this it would not surprise me if they had tried to ban the religious symbols and texts, but hastily recanted when called on it.