Last May, former American Atheists president Ed Buckner visited a state park in Georgia and found a Bible in his rented cabin. That wouldn’t be unusual in a privately-owned hotel… but a state park?!
It’s not that the Bible was “offensive.” It’s just that, on principle, it shouldn’t have been there. It suggested government endorsement of Christianity.
At the time, park officials removed the Bibles from the cabins, but Governor Nathan Deal quickly put them right back in because he (wrongly) believed they were legal:
“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. “In fact, any group is free to donate literature.”
Oh, really?! Any group can donate literature?!
You can imagine how the staff at American Atheists was salivating when they heard those magic words:
“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.
“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,” said President David Silverman.
So in August, Ed Buckner delivered a giant bundle of atheism-themed books to several state parks.
Fear, Faith, Fact, Fantasy by the late Dr. John A. Henderson.
Why I Am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq.
And — my personal favorite — leather-bound copies of The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible by Steve Wells.
The kicker? There were labels in all of the books that credit Governor Deal for inviting the donations.
Tomorrow, according to a press release from the Atlanta Freethought Society, Buckner will be donating even more books to Indian Springs State Park. This time, the donations include The Devil’s Game (about Fundamentalist Islam) and Stones & Bones, a child’s guide to evolution.
American Atheists President Dave Silverman said, “We continue to be delighted with the support of Governor Nathan Deal for our efforts to help educate Georgia citizens and visitors. Thanks to him, state park visitors can now read about Islamic fundamentalism and give their children a fun read on evolution. We’ve made sure to label every book we’re donating as coming from us, of course. But each label also properly credits Governor Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens.”
Steve Wells said, “We’re quite happy that more Georgians and visitors will get to learn the truth about the Bible; we plan to continue our support for this program.”
I love it. The state parks should remove all religious/non-religious books altogether, but until they do, this idea of fighting fire with fire is just fantastic.
(Portions of this post were published last year.)