The familiar sight of a Gideon Bible in a hotel or motel room is being joined by appearances of Buddhist, Scientologist, and Mormon writings.

No longer are Bibles, placed primarily by members of Gideons International, a Nashville-based laymen's group, the only religious book found in the nation's 3.4 million hotel rooms. Today's pluralism, plus witnessing efforts by members of other religions, is broadening the scope of reading material available.

The Bible, however, remains the primary choice for hoteliers, continuing what has been an American tradition most of this century.

CROWDED NIGHTSTAND: Nevertheless, rivals to that tradition are emerging. The Tokyo-based Society for the Promotion of Buddhism is distributing a volume of Buddhist scripture to hotels in the United States. The Nikko hotel chain, owned by a Japanese company, has long placed The Teachings of Buddha in its rooms alongside the Bible. Some California and Nevada hotels have added the volume, bringing the number of hotels carrying it to 2,500.

Followers of the Church of Scientology say they have placed in 350 hotels more than 90,000 copies of "The Way to Happiness: A Common Sense Guide to Better Living," a secular-themed booklet by the group's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The 96-page booklet encourages moral and ethical conduct and is placed in hotels by members of an affiliated secular organization, the Way to Happiness Foundation, according to spokesperson Rosemary Dunstan. The booklet also is being reprinted and distributed by businesses and other organizations.

"Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which contains the principal beliefs of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and founder Mary Baker Eddy, is showing up in more hotel rooms. Carol Hohle, a spokesperson ...

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