Ed Buckner, former leader of American Atheists, took his family to a cabin in a Georgia state park and was surprised to find a Gideon Bible in the room. When he complained about this, the state initially removed them from all the cabins at state parks, but Gov. Nathan Deal ordered them to be returned.
After consulting with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, Gov. Nathan Deal today instructed the state Department of Natural Resources to return Bibles to cabins and lodge rooms at state parks.
“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. 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 group is free to donate literature.”
So American Atheists is taking Deal up on his offer:
American Atheists announced Friday that it will send the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) enough popular atheist books to place one in every state park cabin in the state. The atheist books will be placed alongside Gideon Bibles already in every state park cabin as directed by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal on Wednesday.
“We appreciate the governor’s invitation to place atheist books in the cabins and look forward to providing visitors with the opportunity to learn more about atheism when they visit Georgia’s beautiful state parks,” said Managing Director Amanda Knief…
Books to be donated include “Why I Am Not A Muslim,” by Ibn Warraq, “Why I Am An Atheist” by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, “god is not Great,” by Christopher Hitchens, and “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.
Now here’s the question: Will Deal actually follow through on this deal? I’ll bet dollars to donuts he’ll try not to. But he’s really painted himself into a corner here by publicly declaring that this is an open forum. Once that is established, the state must put nearly any publication in the rooms on an equal basis. In fact, I think a whole bunch of other groups should do the same thing — Muslims, Wiccans, Hindus, communists, Larouchies, Mormons, Scientologists. When that happens, you’ll see that open forum disappear quickly. Because that’s really just a pretext.