ATLANTA, May 20, 2013 – Days after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the state Department of Natural Resources to return Bibles to rooms at Georgia State Parks, a New Jersey-based atheist group says it is planning to place its literature in rooms alongside the Bibles, according to an Associated Press report.
Bibles were initially removed from rooms and cabins at state parks after a visitor complained. But, Deal ordered the Bibles returned last week after conferring with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.
Deal and Olens believe the state is “on firm legal footing” to put Bibles back into the rooms. However, atheists are seizing the opportunity.
“We expect fair treatment, we anticipate fair treatment and we look forward to fair treatment,” The Associated Press quoted David Silverman, president American Atheist, as saying. “If the state is going to put Bibles in the cabins, they must allow alternate points of view – all alternative points of view without taking sides.”
The Christian Post quoted, Amanda Knief, managing director of American Atheists, as saying: “American Atheists does not believe the state of Georgia should be placing Bibles or atheist books in state park cabins; however, if the state is going to allow such distribution, we will happily provide our materials.”
In a statement last week, Deal said the Bibles were removed “out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential litigation.”
“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,” Deal said last week. “In fact, any religious group is free to donate literature.”
Books at hotels nationwide are typically donated by Gideons International, a Nashville, Tennessee-based organization. According to a Reuters report, a spokesman for the organization said he knew of no other states where a similar spat over Bibles has erupted.
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