TODAY IS… an awesome day to thank God for the greatest gift of all. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”


December 25


an awesome day to
thank God for the greatest gift of all.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11 NIV

As the title of this book reminds us, each day is A Gift From God. The days of our lives are precious, each and every one. They hold out promise and hope. The days of our lives are among the most valuable of all gifts that God gives us, and there are many, as the devotionals in this book have attempted to demonstrate.

But the most precious gift ever given by the One who gave us this world in which to live, and our very lives with which to enjoy it, was the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, the One whose birth would change the world forever.

Zechariah used these beautiful words to describe the gift that the world would soon be given: “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:79 NLT). The morning has broken, and it is surely a beautiful day!

Jesus came to occupy our hearts, but it is not a forced occupation. We must want Him there, and we must seek the light that He will shine upon those dark areas of our souls that we would like to say good-bye to. We must desire the life that will come when we learn the savior’s lessons that will teach us to die to ourselves. We must volunteer to serve and be willing to sacrifice all that we are and all that we have in order to receive all that He came to give.

Hopefully we are all aware that we must thank God each and every day for all of His grace, all of His love, and all of His mercy. But on this day that has been set aside to mark the arrival of the most valuable gift ever given, we must all be sure to give special thanks to God.

With this gift in our possession, we can feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked, house those who are homeless, and heal those who are sick. With this gift we can refuse to fall prey to the temptations of Satan and those he has corrupted on this earth. With this gift we can live in a significant manner and we can understand the concept of humble service to our brothers and sisters.

By accepting this remarkable, priceless gift of love, we can be better spouses, better parents, better friends, and better neighbors.

Let us all humbly, gratefully, joyfully, and tearfully accept this gift and say “Thank You” to Almighty God.

TODAY IS… a superb day to pray for peace. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.


December 24


a superb day to pray for peace.

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”  Matthew 5:9 NLT

All of the chaotic preparations of the season begin to wind down. Last minute shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, traveling; all of these things begin to end and we are ready to enjoy our families, our friends, our neighbors. Businesses begin to close early – those that are actually still trying to get things done – and a quiet begins to descend on our communities.

All that we have done to celebrate this time of year is acceptable to God. He loves to hear our laughter, and the sound of excited children. He loves our music and He wants families and friends to draw closer, be nicer, and love each other.

But God also wants each one of us to reach out and pray for peace throughout the world. Some people laugh or become cynical at the mere thought or mention of world peace, but this is something that would truly please God because we cannot have peace throughout the world without people loving each other, respecting each other’s differences and being concerned for each other’s health and welfare.

World peace is not something that is just for beauty pageant contestants to hope for. It is certainly not something to laugh about or refuse to think about because we see so many obstacles to it.

World peace should be in our prayers every day, but especially on this day. We should gather our families and thank God for our good fortune and for the love we share with one another, and we should use that time as an opportunity to collectively ask God to use His power to help make us all kinder, gentler, and more compassionate. We should take this little bit of time to teach our children the importance of giving thanks and giving the gift of prayer for peace throughout this world that God created for us to share with one another.

Those who feel that world peace is impossible are the very people that Jesus Christ was talking about when He said, “You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ’I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.’” (Matthew 17:20 NLT).

Use the gift of prayer and your faith to move the mountains of hate, war, persecution and oppression. Pray to God for peace throughout the world.


TODAY IS… a fine day to pray for satisfaction. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”


December 23


a fine day to pray for satisfaction.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6 NASB

Today we are going to pray again, only this time, our prayer will be for our satisfaction. No? Too self-centered? Too selfish? Christ said that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we “shall be satisfied.” So if we take the gift of today and pray for God to “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4 NIV), are we not exhibiting a hunger and thirst for righteousness? And are we not blessed by God for this and satisfied?

Prayer for other people who need it desperately will provide us with the satisfaction that we are reaching out to millions of people we will probably never meet and are making a difference in their lives. Prayer to God is a powerful tool in the fight against injustice and there is little that is more unjust than starving children, orphans and others who live their lives in a simple daily quest of survival.

At this time of year, many people open up their purse strings in a generous spirit to give friends and family wonderful gifts that express their love. But there are so many millions who have nothing to give, and who need so much for themselves. “Lord, You know the hopes of the helpless. Surely You will hear their cries and comfort them.” (Psalm 10:17 NLT). But millions of people around the world do not know to cry out to God for help. It then becomes our responsibility to cry out for them.

While it is perfectly acceptable to smile, be happy, enjoy friends and family, and exchange gifts at this time of year, it is also a very important time to pray to God to give us satisfaction by calling upon Him to strike down those who would prey upon the poor and oppressed of the world. “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.” (Psalm 10:12 NASB). So many think that they can walk unnoticed upon the backs of the weak, “But You see the trouble and grief they cause. You take note of it and punish them. The helpless put their trust in You. You defend the orphans.” (Psalm 10:14 NLT).

God understands that perhaps our finances are limited, so there is not much we can do although we do all that we can. But the power of prayer cannot ever be emphasized enough, so if we pray several times throughout the day for justice for the poor and the oppressed, we are doing something positive, something that will help, and something that will bring us satisfaction.


TODAY IS… a good day to acknowledge that all you need is God. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”

December 21


a good day to
acknowledge that all you need is God.

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’”  1 Samuel 17:45 NIV

Of the eight sons of Jesse, David was the youngest and least experienced in war. Unlike the rest of his brothers, as well as the entire army of Israelites, when David looked at Goliath he did not see a giant who was to be feared. Instead he saw an ordinary man in defiance of God. While his brothers, and even King Saul, thought the idea of David facing Goliath in battle was ludicrous, David’s only thought was victory for God.

Armed with his faith in God, David told Goliath exactly who would defeat him. “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Samuel 17:46a NIV). David knew that God would claim victory through him and his faith. While David would physically slay Goliath, it would only be possible because of God. “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47 NIV).

David taught us that when we are doing the will of God there is no possibility of defeat. David also taught us to have confidence in ourselves when we are fighting battles in God’s name.

Because of his faith, David reaped great rewards. This is something we all need to take note of. If we can establish a relationship with God where our lives are lived with the goal of doing His will, we will find a path to rewards beyond our wildest dreams. When we ask God what He wants us to do, “You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:2 NLT).

Sometimes we get so caught up in complicating things that we forget how incredibly simple it all was when it began. God created a diverse world of beauty and wonder. He created birds to fill the air with music, and He created a multitude of creatures to walk the earth. He populated the oceans with fish of all different shapes and sizes, and planted trees that produced delicious fruits and scattered flowers about to add color and to scent the air. He created man and woman for no other purpose than to enjoy what He had made when He left them alone. He did not leave a long list of instructions. There were no cumbersome rules and regulations to follow. There was one simple rule – do not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We all know that did not work out so well. But we all have another opportunity to live uncomplicated lives. All we have to do is live for God. If we make our relationship with Him one of the complete faith and trust of David, then God will lead us to a life worth living and no one – not even Goliath – will be able to stand in our way.


TODAY IS… a perfect day to be led astray. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.

December 20


a perfect day to be led astray.

“The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, ‘Why did you not bring Him?’”  John 7:45 NASB

When the religious leaders and Pharisees sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus, they returned empty handed. When they were asked why they had not done what they were instructed, “The officers answered, ‘Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.’” (John 7:46 NASB). Of course, the religious leaders were incredulous. Not fully believing the response, “The Pharisees then answered them, ‘You have not also been led astray, have you?’” (John 7:47 NASB).

If we, like the soldiers, have been led astray by the words that Jesus spoke, then the only thing we can do is – Praise God!

It is unusual, perhaps, to “Praise God” for being led astray, but if this is what the religious leaders of Jesus’ day consider being led astray, then there is not much else that we can do.

The truth of the matter, as we all know it to be, is that the soldiers were not led astray, they were led to the truth. The religious leaders and the Pharisees could not see the truth because it did not meet their expectations of what the truth should have been. When God selected Mary to give birth to Christ – a birth which we are preparing to celebrate in just a few days – He did not find it necessary to consult with anyone else before He made that selection. He saw in Mary’s heart what He needed to see to make His choice. The fact that the One He sent to save the world did not meet the expectations of the most learned religious leaders of the day has caused many people through history to believe that those who recognized Christ as the One sent by God to offer salvation to the world and to die for the sins of all mankind, were all led astray.

In actuality, those who really are being led astray are those who fail to accept the gift that Christ was sent to offer with His death.

If being led astray means that we are lining up behind Jesus Christ to follow Him into the Kingdom of God, then let us pray that we are all led astray. If being led astray means that we are being led to an everlasting life full of peace, joy, happiness, and love, then the choice is clear. When the temple guards chose not to arrest Jesus, they were thought to be fools by those who should have known better.

God sent His Son to us in exactly the way that He chose to, and if we choose to follow Him and be “led astray” then we have made the right choice.


TODAY IS… an excellent day to avoid the crush. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”

December 19


an excellent day to avoid the crush.

“Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, You forgive them all.”
Psalm 65:3 NLT

This time of year is a difficult one for millions of people. Certainly many people simply feel the crush of the season as “the day” approaches. Shopping, parties, family, friends – all good things, certainly, but each one adds to the burden that we carry. The good news for all of these people is that Christmas Day acts as a safety valve, and once it arrives, the pressure is off and many people relax and enjoy the peace and goodwill that seems to settle over the world, if only briefly.

Millions of others feel the weight of the season in an entirely different way. Millions dread the arrival of this time of year and many of us face severe bouts of depression and loneliness. Many are overcome with negativity and bring their self-worth into question. Many of us feel the weight of our sins and do not know how to keep from being crushed under that weight. There is no time that is good to feel the burden we feel when we are overwhelmed by our sins, but this time of year seems to make us more aware of the oppressive weight on our souls that comes as a result.

If we fall into the first group, there is not much that can help beyond patience – it will all be over soon. If we fall into the second group we need to turn to God and ask for His help. We also need the prayers of those in the first group.

Sometimes we feel that we have nowhere to turn. Our actions have caused us to dig ourselves deeper and deeper into darkness. We see no way out, other than to fill the hole in on top of ourselves, and the ability to see any light at the end of our personal tunnel has long since left us. We have forgotten that this season of joy, which we have allowed to become an additional weight on us, signifies the birth of the very One who can remove that weight from our shoulders and lift us up out of the hole that we have dug.

There is no problem that we have that is too big for our Lord. There is no sin too great that cannot be forgiven if we accept Christ into our life, repent of our sins, and ask forgiveness. There is no darkness that cannot be thrown into comforting light by the grace and glory of God if we will only reach out and ask God to take our hand.

Many, many people choose this time of year to pronounce a death sentence upon themselves. Pray for those who would take their life with their own hand and ask God to help them reach out for His hand instead so He may lift them up from under their burden.



‘My’ bus finally rolled into the station and those holding tickets were all standing in line, waiting to board. I was not the only one who had been anticipating an earlier departure. The bus seemed larger from the outside than I had remembered, but once on board I became aware that what I was seeing was an optical illusion. While the exterior graphics package was a newer, updated version from the one I remembered, the interior actually seemed smaller than I recalled from times past. This, too, may have been an illusion, but the feeling of closeness on a full ‘Grey Dog’ indicates otherwise, and this ‘Dog’ was full of ‘fleas’!

None of that mattered however, as the predominant thought in my mind was that we were finally underway and I was going to be moving farther and farther from Oakdale with each passing minute. The entire undertaking was accompanied by a numbness of my senses that would prove to be a prelude to the numbness my rear-end would experience as the hours wore on. Still, as the ‘Grey Dog’ began its run towards Mobile, Alabama, I was acutely aware that the future had begun.

My traveling ‘companion’ for the first 8 hours or so was a short woman of Hispanic origin who was probably around 50. She did not speak English but required some assistance with her carryon luggage at each stop where we were required to leave the bus for 30 – 60 minutes. Those stops included Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with her final destination being Mobile. She was quiet, but pleasant, and offered me money for helping her. I declined, so she wrote her name and phone # on a piece of paper instead. As I had no phone, I had no number to give her, but I thanked her and did my best to explain. I made sure she got her bags from beneath the bus when she needed to do so and helped her get to a place where she could await those who were coming to pick her up in Mobile.

By the time we left Mobile, it was dark, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to board. I managed to get a window seat near the front of the bus. My next ‘companion’ was an attractive young woman named Mila (rhymes with vanilla). Most of the people who ride ‘The Dog’ look like people who ride ‘The Dog’.

Mila did not look like someone who rode ‘The Dog’. Before anyone asks, I cannot tell you what people who ride ‘The Dog’ should look like. You’d recognize them if you saw them.  I can only say that, as a rule, they don’t look like Mila.

There was also a young black couple on board who turned out to be a brother and sister who were traveling up into Georgia, and were changing buses in Atlanta. They had been on the bus since I first boarded it and were very well dressed, well mannered, and well spoken, and were traveling from one parent in the Houston area to visit the other parent in Columbia, Georgia. We exchanged pleasantries at each stop. Like Mila, they didn’t look like people who rode ‘The Dog’ regularly either. As it turned out, none of them had ever ridden a bus before, so if I am guilty of stereotyping, I guess I can at least say that I was good at it (hahaha).

Mila proved to be a very interesting young woman who was willing to spend time talking with an old man on a bus. When I asked where she was headed, she indicated she was traveling first to North Carolina to attend a wedding, then she was headed to Portland, Maine where she was going to intern for a state Senator. I told her about my connection to Maine (I was born there and had family there), and further discussion revealed that she had recently graduated from a Christian College in Pensacola. The course of the conversation ultimately revealed that she had been born in Romania and had been raised in Malaysia as a Muslim. She had converted to Christianity at 14, so I asked her about the difficulty that I assumed accompanied being a Christian in a predominately Muslim part of the world. Mila was very intelligent, open, and willing to talk about God, and was the perfect traveling companion (No offense to Olga, my little Hispanic friend).

I admit here that I mislead her about where I was headed and why. I was reluctant to tell her that I had just been released from prison. I did tell her I was headed to Washington, D.C. to live in a Mission, but I sort of led her to believe that I was going there to work, as opposed to going there to live until I could reassemble my much disassembled life. I did show her my copy of my book, “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” and I think she might have examined the back cover where I mentioned being incarcerated, but if she noticed, she didn’t say anything. More than likely it was simple politeness on her part.

Before I boarded my next bus, I saw her standing off to the side smoking a cigarette. I wrote down the address to these “Chronicles” and called her over. I gave it to her and asked her to check it out.

Perhaps she will even read these words. If she does, I hope she accepts my apology for any deception on my part. I was not intentionally trying to deceive for nefarious purposes, or out of any embarrassment or reluctance to discuss my experience and the reasons for the incarceration in the first place. In fact, had we had privacy, I probably would have told her as much as she wanted to hear, but the “Grey Dog” is not conducive to private conversations as we discovered by the interruptions into our conversation several times by a very colorful individual on his way to Washington as well. The conversation with Mila made the extreme tedium of the journey disappear. It was so nice to have pleasant, meaningful conversation with someone outside of the prison environment and I was glad to see I could still participate in such a ‘normal’ conversation.

As the night wore on, we both drifted off to sleep for a while. When we parted in the wee hours of the morning, I was sorry to see her go. We wished each other well, and I knew she would be difficult to ‘replace’ as a traveling partner. I was quickly proven right as my next ‘seatmate’ was a young man who chose headphones over conversation, which was fine, but it was also temporary as he was only next to me for a couple of stops. The crowd thinned out, and he would prove to be my last seatmate. As the morning dawned, I had a little more room to stretch out, and as we rolled into Charlotte, North Carolina the scenery had improved dramatically over Louisiana, Mississippi, and the southern part of Alabama that I could see before darkness had consumed the scenery.

Charlotte was home to my first really scrumptious ‘free world’ food. A black man who, by his girth looked like he really enjoyed food, recommended the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on Texas toast prepared in the little grill located in a corner of the bus station. Fresh, hot, and made to order, it was truly a thing of wonder. I love a good breakfast sandwich and this one was exceptional.

There still remained about 8-10 hours till we arrived in Richmond, Virginia, but the countryside was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, and freedom was in the air!

I saw some lovely towns and cities throughout North Carolina and into Virginia. Since the bus was not an express, we sort of took the long way around, but in the end it was worth it.

The entire trip was about 32 hours, and by the time we rolled into Richmond at 7 PM the day after my release from Oakdale, the entirety of my derriere felt like it had been injected with Novocain. Those reading this may find that amusing, but I kid you not: My rear-end was numb, and it was a numbness that did not completely wear off for 3 days!

Seeing my sister in the bus depot in Richmond was one of the most welcome sights I have ever experienced. We hugged and left the station to the comfort of her Volvo crossover. We chatted for a few minutes as we left the city and headed north towards Lorton, where she lives, and then I used her cell phone to call Anthony, my son. To not have the call introduced by a mechanical voice saying, “This call is from Tony Casson, an inmate at a federal prison” was something I had anticipated for a long time. To not be reminded twice during the call that “This call is from a federal prison” was something I had also anticipated. And to not have the call terminated at the end of 15 minutes was priceless! We hung up when we were done talking and it was over 30 minutes before that occurred.

I missed my friends already, but I was thoroughly enjoying the stimulation of my senses by all of the different sights, sounds, and smells that accompany freedom.

There are not enough pages, nor am I in possession of enough talent, to ever adequately describe to you all that I thought about, saw, and felt during my first 36 hours of freedom. I can tell you this much, however: Whether or not that was my last run as a ‘flea’ on the “Grey Dog” or not, there will never be another bus ride which will mean as much to me as that one.

That ride carried me from the place God trained me to be for a little over four years, and delivered me to where He wanted me to be for the next phase of my life of service to Him. The unpleasantness of the physical discomfort of the trip itself is nothing when compared to the opportunities to serve God and glorify His name that I was being directed to.

Those left behind may think they are forgotten, but they are not. They are in my thoughts, my prayers and are a part of many discussions I have. God leads me and guides my steps as I work to help people around me now, but the men I left behind are an indelible part of who I am, how I think, and they will remain a part of my life.

I have written in the past in these “Chronicles” about the ability of our faith in God to allow us to be free no matter where we are, and those words still stand. For me, it was the “perfect prison experience”, and I had never been as free in my mind and my spirit as I was in Oakdale.

I carry that freedom with me into ‘the free world’ and I will use it to help me to fully appreciate the physical freedom of being on this side of the razor-wire. I will ask God on a daily basis to help me remember what Paul had to say about freedom in the Book of Galatians in the Holy Bible: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT)

This responsibility Paul speaks about, “to serve one another in love”, is something that can prevent most of the things which cause men and women to go to prison in the first place, from ever happening.

Think about that.

For now, I am ‘dog’ tired. God bless you all and may He keep you and your families safe. I will be writing more on my experiences as time goes on, but I need to get these articles done and posted.


I received something from an organization the other day which reminded me that many times family members wish to help their incarcerated loved ones, but are at a loss as to what, if anything, they may do. Particularly those whose loved ones are incarcerated as ‘sex offenders’, or “SO’s”. I thought I would pass along some information and resources to those who have recently started reading these pages and anyone else who might be unaware of the existence of these fine groups. Contacting them directly and inquiring as to how you may help your loved one is something that may be found to help you deal with the absence of your husband, father, brother, uncle, or other family member, friend, or loved one.

The something I received was a template for a letter to be addressed to each recipient’s U.S. Senator regarding a proposed bill for ‘earned time’ credits with which federal inmates can reduce their time of incarceration. The bill, as proposed, EXCLUDES many inmates for a variety of different reasons, those convicted of crimes of violence, career criminals, and terrorists among them. Also included in that group are those convicted of “all sex offenses.” The letter, which was very well written, addresses the fact that this is unfair to “SO’s” for a variety of reasons; chief among them the fact that sex offender recidivism rates are the lowest of ANY CLASS OF CRIME IN THE COUNTRY. Sex offenders are currently excluded from many, many programs which can reduce the time they spend in prison, and this should be the case for those convicted of sexual assault and sexual crimes of violence, but there are many, many people in prison who deserve the same opportunities at redemption and reduction of sentences as those who are ‘merely non-violent drug dealers’. Don’t even get me started on the death and destruction this ‘overly prosecuted’ group reigns down on this country and its citizens.

The first group I will mention, which is the one from which I received the letter is They are located near Buffalo, NY, and they sent me the template for a very well written letter. I encourage you all to obtain it, print it, and send it. Share the information as well. Their email address is and you can request being added to their mailing list. Contact them and ask for a copy of their letter re: Earned time credits.

The second group, and one which I have seen remarkable growth in over the last 4 years is Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL). Their link is: and it is possible for you to go there and sign up for a digital copy of their newsletter, as well as sign your incarcerated loved one up for their print version as well. It is full of useful news, links to publications and articles of interest, and actions being taken to combat some of the ridiculously restrictive and unfair laws targeting SO’s and their families. They have lists of individual state chapters and how to contact them to help in your own state. Some of the state chapters are extremely effective and well-run and can be sources of information on how to obtain change in your own state. The Texas chapter, “TEXAS VOICES” is one very good example, as is the Arkansas “TIME AFTER TIME” chapter. (To the rest, I intend no slight at your efforts. You are ALL fantastic!)

There is also “Women Against The Registry” (W.A.R.) and “SOSEN” (Which I am not all that familiar with, and I apologize).

Contact all of these groups and spread the word to others you know who may be interested. The problems facing those who are required to register as sex offenders after release continue to grow, but these groups are working to stem the tide and reverse the flow and have been meeting with some tremendous successes as of late. My heartfelt thanks go out to each and every one of you.

You may not be able to do much, but you can all do something. Please do what you can!

May God bless you and your families.

And to the Mother of a relatively new inhabitant of my unit by the name of Brandon: Thanks for the bookmark! I like your son and I am sorry he is in here. Like many I meet and pray for daily, Brandon could have been dealt with differently. There MUST be a better way than this to solve the problem this country faces. Supporting these hardworking people in RSOL and the rest can help to find it.

Tony Casson
91153-004 A-1
Box 5000
Federal Correctional Center
Oakdale, LA  71463

TODAY IS… A Gift From God ~


“But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in Heaven.” Matthew 10:33 NLT

“Always do right. This will gratify some and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain

To whom it may concern:

Contrary to what your editorial of Monday, February 24 claimed, Iowa State University did NOT properly handle “The Bible Complaint”, and I would like to explain why I believe this to be true.

Allow me to provide a little background for those who are not familiar with the story itself: There are hotel rooms located in the Iowa State University Memorial Union, and in those rooms, as in tens of thousands of hotel and motel rooms throughout the country, “Gideon International” placed copies of the Holy Bible in the drawers of nightstands next to the beds. This is a practice that has gone on for decades and anyone staying in a hotel or motel anywhere in this country would be hard-pressed to say they have not seen a copy of the Bible stamped “Placed By The Gideons” at some point or another. A study done many years ago showed that the Bibles provided by the Gideons were picked up in many instances by individuals who went to hotel rooms intending to commit suicide, and that the decision to end their life was altered as a result of the Bible’s availability. There has never been any ‘contract’ to sign stating occupancy of the room was tied to believing in God, being a Christian, or reading the Bible itself. It was simply provided as an act of service to those travelers who may find some comfort in its presence, and there have undoubtedly been millions who have been happy to see it there. Certainly there have also been millions of individuals who have simply ignored it; just left it untouched in the drawer, or never opened the drawer in the first place. This, too, is an individual choice.

Along comes a group calling itself the “Freedom From Religion Foundation”. Somehow the fact of the Bible’s presence in these rooms rankles them. The group postulates that as ISU is a state-funded institution of higher learning, there should be no display of religion at all since such displays are offensive to those who have no faith at all. The working theory is that simply having a Bible in the drawer so it is available to anyone who might desire to pick it up and read it, is favoring Christianity over all other faiths or over the “Freedom From Religion” belief in nothing at all; that it constitutes some sort of insidious state-sponsored support of Christianity. A continuum of that theory would be that having no Bible creates no such favoritism and promotes no particular belief. Therefore, the group demanded the removal of the offending material, and ISU complied, “to avoid litigation”.

Allow me to point out what should be painfully obvious: Not having any faith at all is a form of belief in and of itself. It is the belief that there IS no God. It is the belief that we are just an evolutionary occurrence or the result of some ‘accident’ of the universe. Nonetheless, it IS a belief, if only a belief in nothing at all. By capitulating to the threats of litigation and removing the ‘offending material’ ISU is, in fact, supporting one belief over another. There can be no other conclusion which can be drawn. You see, removing a donated text in favor of ‘nothing’ now forces UNbelief upon those who DO believe. The acceptance of the ‘nothing’ that this group insists be displayed demonstrates a preference over the ‘something’ the Gideons have placed there. It would be best to leave them displayed side by side, as they already lay in the drawer, and let people choose to pick up the Bible, or pick up the ‘nothing’ lying next to it. Removing my Bible and leaving THEIR ‘nothing’ rankles ME.

The Constitution of the United States of America offers no clearly stated freedom FROM religion, as this group seeks. However the Constitution DOES specifically guarantee the freedom OF religion. Furthermore, although ISU is a state-funded institution, no state funds were used to purchase those Bibles. The hotel, which is open to the public, merely provides the same amenities of thousands of hotels and motels throughout this country.

A book, no matter what the book is, should not create such a stir. Anyone who does not believe the Holy Bible is the Word of God does not have to read it, nor does ISU insist it BE read as a contractual condition of occupying one of its rooms. This is NOT school prayer we are talking about, which required active participation in a publically funded school. Still, it was a shameful moment in American history when the judicial system of this country supported the theory that encouraging children to pray was somehow bad. On the other hand, in this case we are talking about a book which is not in plain view and is simply there for the convenience of those who DO wish to read it. It should be a simple matter to just ignore it if it does not conform to your beliefs. The fact it would create such discomfort to anyone by its mere presence in a drawer in a room is disturbing in and of itself.

It is time for those who believe in God to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!” If we keep allowing those who choose to NOT believe in God to constantly push faith farther and farther from public view, it will be just a matter of time before it is illegal to display a symbol of ANY faith in the window of our home or car, or on a t-shirt or a piece of jewelry. Soon our places of worship – churches, mosques, and synagogues – will be denied the right to display any symbol of their religious faith on the exteriors of those buildings because someone walking by on a public sidewalk or driving by on a public street is offended by the mere sight of the symbol of faith. It is time for those who claim to be ‘experts’ at interpreting the Constitution and what was ‘intended’ by the words written, stop and think for a moment about life in the immediate aftermath of the document’s introduction into the American way of life: Prayer, and the Holy Bible, were everywhere one looked. Faith was a cornerstone of the founding of this country, not freedom FROM faith. Whether or not this country was founded as a Christian nation may be open for debate, but the people of this country’s overwhelming adherence to faith of some sort and use of the Bible in daily life at the time of the writing of the Constitution most certainly is not!

Those individuals who believe in nothing might find something more constructive to do with their time and money if they were to READ the Bible and see what it has to say about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and healing the sick. Perhaps they might see it as a source of guidance they can use to learn tolerance and love for others; to help them express their humanity; to help them find ways to focus on those things we have in common rather than on those things which differentiate us.

I am an inmate in a federal prison and I have learned that the ability to deal with the pain and the problems in my life which predicated the need for me to spend time here lies within the pages of the Holy Bible. I am convinced it can be used as a roadmap to salvation for anyone who is willing to take the time to read it. Lives can be changed for the better through its daily use, and lives can be saved by its wisdom and its Hope. Its use should be advocated and promoted, and attempts to suppress the beauty and value of its message should be fought with all available resources. The world needs less ‘nothing’ and more of what the pages of the Bible offer.

I read the Des Moines Register on a regular basis, courtesy of someone I know who is from there. I think it is a great newspaper and I have written with regularity, here in “The Oakdale Chronicles”, about articles and opinions I have seen there. I don’t often feel compelled to offer an opinion contrary to that of the editorial staff, but in this case I must. With all due respect, your opinion needs to be re-examined. Iowa State University and the Des Moines Register took the easy way out, and that is not always the right way.

Look in the Bible. That lesson is in there.

I thank everyone for their time. Be sure to check out my book of daily devotions, “TODAY IS… A Gift From God” at

And may God bless you all.

Tony Casson
91153-004 A-1
Box 5000
Federal Correctional Center
Oakdale, LA  71463