As you might know, American Atheists recently pointed out that at least one Georgia state park had Bibles in the cabins. Since these are taxpayer-funded parks (and not privately-owned hotels), that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.
But Governor Nathan Deal said more than a week ago that “any group is free to donate literature,” not just Christian ones.
American Atheists, perhaps not expecting that answer, gleefully took him at his word and made plans to gather materials for distribution in the state’s parks.
How does the Governor feel now that an atheist group is calling him on his (possible) bluff?
He’s not backing away from what he said… but he’s also not letting it slide without an implied jab against the atheists:
Deal said Tuesday “if somebody doesn’t want to read the Gideon Bibles, they don’t have to take it out of the drawer. If there is some atheist literature, they don’t have to read it.”
He added he wasn’t sure of the response from visitors, saying “If they want to put [atheist literature] there, I can’t guarantee its safety.”
That’s just great. The atheists can include their literature alongside the Bibles… but if people vandalize it or steal it…?
As one website translated Deal: “Nice atheist book you’ve got, son. Be a shame if anything happened to it.” (American Atheists President Dave Silverman probably wasn’t helping his case, but he analogized the situation on Twitter by saying to Gov. Deal: “I can’t guarantee your car won’t get keyed. Not asking anyone to do it, I’m just saying I can’t…”)
Ed Buckner, the atheist who visited a Georgia state park and started this whole back-and-forth, couldn’t believe the Governor would imply such a horrible thing:
“This is a tacit endorsement, unbecoming to the chief executive of our state, of hooliganism and vandalism by Georgia Christians. Gov. Deal has a clear constitutional duty to offer reasonable protection for any property accepted for use in state park cabins, regardless of whether that property consists of Gideons Bibles or atheist books. The Georgians I know — Christians as well as atheists — are responsible citizens who can decide what to read or not, but who would not childishly try to defeat ideas by destroying books.”
Can you imagine Deal (or any governor) saying the same thing about the Bible? “If the Gideons want to place their Bibles in our cabins, they might get destroyed. Oh well.”
Of course not. He would at least pay lip service to doing everything in his power to stop people from treating the Bible as anything but a holy book. His comments are essentially letting cabin-renters know that if they see any atheist literature, they’re free to throw them out or vandalize them.
There’s nothing illegal about this, by the way. If a donated book is stolen from a room, nobody’s going to jail or paying a fine — we all know atheists who have toyed with or taken hotel room Bibles — but to have a Governor say publicly that he won’t do anything if anyone destroys these atheist books is really disappointing.
Not that the vandalism would be a completely horrible thing. If anything happened to the books, you can bet that atheists would get mileage out of it. Look at what happened to these atheist books! Look at how religious people act when confronted with a challenge! Why are they so afraid of words on a page? It’d be a second wave of publicity in favor of atheists.
If the governor or American Atheists wants to stop people from ruining the literature, though, I would suggest just placing this sticker on the material:
That should do the trick.