Group wants atheist books alongside Bibles In Ga. state parks

Photo by Bill Dinicola

Photo by Bill Dinicola

ATLANTA — A national atheist group said it plans to donate enough books on its views to be placed in all Georgia state park cabins after the state's governor said Bibles should remain at the vacation properties despite an atheist's recent complaint.

But Ed Buckner, the atheist who objected after finding nine Bibles in the state-run lodge he was renting, said on Tuesday he is skeptical that Georgia can find a practical way to allow literature from all groups to be equally represented.

"The right answer, and it's the one I asked for from the very beginning, is to keep all types of religious books and literature out of state park cabins," said Buckner, an author and former president of the non-profit group American Atheists. "I don't know where you draw the line or how you draw the line."

After Buckner complained last month, Georgia officials temporarily removed the Gideons Bibles from state-run lodges and cabins. Gov. Nathan Deal ordered them returned last week, saying he did not believe "that a Bible in a bedside table drawer constitutes a state establishment of religion."

The governor said any religious group was free to donate literature.

In response, the American Atheists said they would donate popular atheist books, including "Why I Am An Atheist" by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, "god is not Great" by Christopher Hitchens, and "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.

"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," the group's current president, David Silverman, said in a statement.

Whether those books will be placed in state lodges was not clear. Deal's spokesman Brian Robinson said on Tuesday the state is in the process of writing regulations on donated literature.

"We've not been in communication with any outside groups," Robinson said.

In response, Gideons spokesman Malcolm Arvin said: "We believe that the Bible is the truth and their literature is not. The truth speaks for itself."

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case that delves into the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state. Two residents of Greece, New York, said the town endorsed Christianity by allowing members of the public, who were mostly Christian clergy, to open meetings with a prayer.

Buckner, 67, of Atlanta, said he will not file a lawsuit against Georgia on similar constitutional grounds if the state can develop a policy that treats all groups equally.

But he said there would be many practical and political challenges to creating an all-inclusive policy.

"I think they've opened up a can of worms, and they're going to have a tough time putting all the worms back in," said Buckner.


kevin 1 year, 7 months ago

So why did this atheist have a change of heart now and to allow Bibles in these cabins? This is so funny!


champaignlady 1 year, 6 months ago

The atheists did not have a change of heart. The bibles were ordered to be returned to the rooms by Gov Deal upon advice of attorney.


Haughton 1 year, 6 months ago

Three opinion pieces against The Bible? The can of worms that Buckner is referring to just might be his group's own creatures.


FordGalaxy 1 year, 6 months ago

The First Amendment does NOT guarantee the separation of Church and State. That phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution. It's origin is in a series of correspondance between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptist Association. Their intent, at least form my perspective, was not merely to keep the church out of the state, but also to keep the state of out the church, as they'd seen the Church of England cease being a religious body and become a political power.

The first amendment prohibits the federal government from establishing a state religion, and from interferring in a citizen's free practice of their own religion. Here's the text: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (emphasis added)


charlesg 1 year, 6 months ago

"Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Burger articulated a three-part test for laws dealing with religious establishment. To be constitutional, a statute must have "a secular legislative purpose," it must have principal effects which neither advance nor inhibit religion, and it must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."

I'll take a Supreme Court Justice's understanding of intent over yours. State-based placement of religious texts is about as entangling as one can get.


Mack711 1 year, 6 months ago

Here is a simple answer to this whole situation. Should you check into another room and find a Bible, do not open it and start reading it leave it alone. No one is requring you to read anything you do not like, but there are many who want to. So because it offends you it may not offend others. By requiring the removal you are infringing on others and inposing your will on others.


kevin 1 year, 6 months ago

Maybe this should be done all over the country. At least we would have new stuff all over Washington as well. We could have a special table in each room in Congress with 30 different Bibles in them. Let's be fair to all religions!


7CR5 1 year, 6 months ago

What's the big deal? It's not like anyone actually reads the bibles, so we can assume no matter what "religious" book they put in there it would be ignored as well. Let them fill up the drawers with blank notepads, this isn't a fight worth having.


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