Chinese to allow Bibles at Olympics

WASHINGTON -- China wants the word out: Olympic athletes will be allowed to carry Bibles at the Beijing Games next year.

Zhou Wenzhong, Chinese ambassador to the United States, tried to end the controversy in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

"It remains unknown what the concoctors of this fabrication are driving at," Zhou wrote to Graham. "But they have caused negative impacts. The Beijing Olympic Games is a major event for both China and the world."

Graham protested the reported Bible ban last week in a phone conversation with Zhou.

"I was very pleased to receive this communication from the Chinese ambassador making it clear there will not be a ban on Bibles at the Olympic village," Graham said Tuesday. "As with everything from Communist China, it is my position we (must) verify, verify, verify, and then trust."

An Italian sports newspaper and the Catholic News Agency had reported that Bibles were on a list of prohibited items for athletes who stay in the Olympic Village for the 2008 Games.

The Olympic organizers had cited security reasons for prohibiting Bibles and other items with religious symbols, according to the news reports.

Graham has been a harsh critic of China on issues ranging from trade tariffs to currency manipulation, but he praised Beijing for allowing Bibles at the Olympics.

"I'm pleased to have this in writing," Graham said. "Hopefully, it will clear up any and all confusion on this matter."