Just days after the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to South Carolina’s Department of Public Safety, telling them to stop sending Christian propaganda to grieving residents, state officials say they will end the practice.
The letter was sent after an atheist received Kenneth C. Haugk‘s book A Time to Grieve, unannounced and never requested, from the state department. While the book is designed to help people cope with dead, it’s also a tool to promote Christianity, and for that reason, the state never should have sent it out.
Public Safety Department spokesman Sherri Iacobelli says the agency immediately reversed course on the book titled “A Time to Grieve” after receiving a letter from the American Humanist Association on behalf of an atheist whose father died.
The state spent $6,426 on a one-time buy of the books, using money from fees collected from people requesting accident reports and the department’s miscellaneous public funds, Iacobelli said.
Troopers will continue to send sympathy cards and instead give out a booklet with practical advice for grieving families, Iacobelli said.
“We have never seen a government office send out Christian literature without even knowing anything about the religious background of the person it is being sent to. This is really just stunning and incredibly insensitive. A church-state violation like this is pretty jaw dropping,” [the AHA’s Legal Director David] Niose told the Anderson Independent-Mail.
I was able to get in contact with the grieving atheist who started this whole process — she requested anonymity — to get her thoughts on the reversal:
I appreciate that they have responded quickly, and that they have chosen to stop sending this book.
I am also happy to see that they plan to replace it with a booklet of practical information and advice.
I appreciate the thought behind the original book — I don’t believe that any individual involved had any ill intentions. I am very happy to know that the original intent remains, and that the idea will be executed in a way that includes all who receive it.
I hope that many families are given the opportunity to utilize resources that will help them deal with the grief of losing a loved one as a result.
It’s incredible that anyone in that office thought a Christian book would be a good idea… but it’s South Carolina. What else would you expect?