American Atheists Donating Books to Georgia

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.

20 comments on this post.
  1. matty1:

    Is there a Muslim equivalent of the Gideons placing Quran’s in hotel rooms? It seems like there should be.

  2. theschwa:

    Great, now I cannot get into my cabin since it filled with books!

  3. Gregory in Seattle:

    Notice the weasel wording: Any group is free to donate literature, but there is apparently no obligation for the state to make that literature available. I bet the books will be graciously accepted, then used to keep the furnace of the governor’s mansion stoked.

  4. daved:

    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Mormons donated copies of the Book of Mormon for the cabins. I haven’t seen it much in the eastern US, but on trips to the western US, I have found the Mormons right there next to the Gideons in the hotel room literature.

    (I seem to recall that, in Arthur Hailey’s book “Hotel,” there’s mention that the Gideon bibles in hotels, after they’ve been there a while, start to accumulate the phone numbers of local escort services.)

  5. matty1:

    There will be an announcement that purely for reasons of space they are only accepting books up until the day before the atheist books arrive, see viewpoint neutral.

  6. ArtK:

    The governor won’t have to do anything of the kind. All he has to do is sit back and wait. The good Christians of Georgia need kindling to start their campfires and those other books will do the job nicely. I suggest printing them on very rough paper otherwise they’ll be used for toilet paper as well.

  7. lldayo:

    They really should have sent the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible.

  8. brucegee1962:

    The Scientologists seem to believe that even Hubbard’s most terrible sf is holy writ, so they’ll probably be backing the truck up as well.

  9. cheesynougats:

    @Ed,

    I am totally stealing “Larouchies.”

    @8,

    Actually, the Scientology crime syndicate* wouldn’t donate books, but they would be willing to put a fee schedule in every room.

    *I am referring only to the “official” Church of Scientology. The various splinter groups, while odd, seem to be law-abiding organizations without the civil rights abuses of the COS. They would definitely be willing to donate books.

  10. imrryr:

    Oh God, not the Larouchies! *shivers*

  11. Dr X:

    http://www.amazon.com/Satanic-Bible-Anton-Szandor-Lavey/dp/0380015390

    Ship directly to Georgia Department of Natural Resources with instructions.

    Excellent chane some govt’ agent for Jesus will dispose of them. Let the lawsuits begin.

  12. Dr X:

    The other problem, of course, is that if any books deemed offensive by Christians are placed, you can bet that visitors will dispose of them posthaste. The cabin managers will say they don’t have the manpower or money to pursue the thieves.

  13. Abby Normal:

    I suggest printing them on very rough paper otherwise they’ll be used for toilet paper as well.

    I suppose turnabout is fair play. It’s not like I’ve never used the Bible to roll a joint. The super-thin paper they tend to use is nearly ideal.

  14. fyreflye:

    @DrX I’d be happy to donate my own copy to the cause but I’m afraid it’s on Kindle

  15. frog:

    The Quran, the Book of Mormon, a Hebrew copy of the OT–these would be good things to send, particularly the Quran, because most religious Christians would have a difficult time getting over their reverence of holy books and outright destroying them. These may not be their holy book, but only the most froth-mouthed fundies wouldn’t consider those books to be genuine expressions of faith, and therefore to be respected, at least in principle.

    Eastern religions might not have as much protection as the Abrahamic religions. “Those aren’t real religions” might be the feeling amongst Christians on that point.

    And atheist books such as The God Delusion are secular works, and therefore not protected by a secret fear that maybe god will getcha if you do bad things to it.

    Copies of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible would be hilarious. It does contain the words of the Bible, so how could someone who believes in the Bible burn it or use it as toilet paper?

  16. lofgren:

    I disagree with those who want to challenge this rule by sending in books they disagree with. In my opinion, allowing guests to leave behind reading material is the better solution than banning Gideon bibles. I think we should treat this rule responsibly and leave behind books that we actually support.

  17. joachim:

    Madlalyn Murray O’Hair was a racist, an anti semite,a nd a thief.

    Great choice to represent atheism.

  18. dan4:

    @17: Atheism is also represented by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Did you just stop reading the block quote after the word “O’Hair?”

  19. Thumper; Atheist mate:

    He’ll probably include “Why I am Not A Muslim” and burn the rest.

  20. evodevo:

    FFRF has a number of good freethought tract pamphlets that would be ideal bookmarks to insert in these bibbles. I carry a few on trips and leave them in the rooms we stay in. Very few people actually open the drawer wherein the bibbles are kept, but if they do, a brightly colored pamphlet is a perfect eyecatcher.
    The Skeptic’s Annotated is a good suggestion, too.

Leave a comment

You must be