ATLANTA, May 15, 2013 — Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday ordered the state Department of Natural Resources to return Bibles to cabins and lodge rooms at Georgia state parks, according to a statement from his office.
The books were removed after a visitor complained about the Bible being in the room. But, Deal and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens believe the state is “on firm legal footing” to put Bibles back into the rooms.
“Out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential litigation, the commissioner removed the Bibles from rooms – though they were still available on site – after a complaint from a visitor,” Deal said in a statement. “The attorney general and I agree that the state is on firm legal footing as we move to return the Bibles to the rooms. These Bibles are donated by outside groups, not paid for by the state, and I do not believe that a Bible in a bedside table drawer constitutes a state establishment of religion. In fact, any religious group is free to donate literature.”
On Tuesday, WAGA-TV quoted a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as saying the Bibles were removed as the complaint was investigated.
“Recently, due to a citizen concern, Georgia Department of Natural Resources management directed Parks staff to remove Bibles from cabins and lodge rooms until management can fully investigate the issue and make an informed decision,” the spokeswoman said, according to the WAGA-TV report.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at a Wednesday morning press conference, Deal said the Bibles would be returned “rather quickly.”
The Gideons often place Bibles in hotel rooms.