Republican Governor Nathan Deal issued the order after the Georgia Department of Natural Resources removed the Bibles following an atheist complaint about their presence.
Ed Buchner, 67, the former leader of the organization American Atheists, expressed his disapproval last month after finding a Gideon’s Bible in a cabin at one of the state parks. He said that he believed the Bibles violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
“Out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential litigation, the commissioner removed the Bibles from the rooms – though they were still available on site – after a complaint from a visitor,” explained Deal.
However, the governor states that both he and the state Attorney General, Sam Olems, believe that the Bibles stand on “firm legal footing.”
“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,” he said. “In fact, any group is free to donate literature.”
But Buckner disagrees and states that he may take legal action against the state.
“I can very much imagine this turning into a lawsuit,” he said. “It’s outrageous that anybody thinks this is acceptable.”
However, the removal of the Bibles also sparked outrage from those who supported their presence.
“I think that they should be left there,” resident Jamie Knight told local television station WAGA. “If someone chooses to read the Bible then that is their right. If they don’t believe in God, then they don’t have to look at a Bible.”
The Bibles had been distributed by Gideon’s International, an organization headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Gideon’s International has given away nearly two million Bibles around the world over the past one hundred years.
The American Bible Society, a ministry similar to Gideon’s International, states that a number of the nation’s Founding Fathers worked to distribute Bibles to the American people. The organization was led by several historical founders in its early years.
“ABS’ early leadership reads like a Who’s Who of patriots. Our first president was Elias Boudinot, former president of the Continental Congress. John Jay, John Quincy Adams, DeWitt Clinton and James Fennimore Cooper also played significant roles, as did Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and Francis Scott Key,” the organization’s website outlines. “Since those early days, American Bible Society has worked closely with organizations to reach people in the United States and around the world who might otherwise not have access to a Bible.”
The American Bible Society, located in New York City, began its Bible distribution in 1817, as it donated 300 Bibles to the Steuben County Bible Society in Bath, New York.