Cranford, New Jersey — A prominent atheist organization founded in 1960’s by Madeline Murray O’Hair has announced that it plans to ship books on atheism to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in hopes that they will be placed in every cabin in the state parks.
The move is reportedly an effort following Governor Nathan Deal’s recent statement that “any group is free to donate literature” to the park service.
Deal’s comments surrounded the removal of Bibles from cabins throughout the state following a complaint lodged by former American Atheists leader Ed Buchner. As previously reported, Buchner expressed his disapproval last month after reportedly finding nine Gideon’s Bibles 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 Governor Deal.
However, after determining that the Bibles stood on “firm legal footing,” Deal ordered the Bibles returned to the cabins.
“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.”
In response to Deal’s comment, American Atheists says that it will ship materials to the state to be placed in every cabin.
“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.
Among the books the organization plans to send to the Department of Natural Resources are Why I Am Not A Muslim by Ibn Warraq, Why I Am An Atheist by Madeline Murray O’Hair, God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
The Bibles that Buchner had found in his cabin had been donated 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, including in government-run parks across the nation.
Buchner had originally considered a lawsuit over the presence of the Bibles in his cabin.
His predecessor, Madeline Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists, is known for having Bible reading thrown out of public schools in the 1960′s. Her son, William J. Murray, denounced atheism in 1980 and became a born again Christian. He is now president of the Religious Freedom Coalition, based in Washington, D.C. His latest book, The Pledge: One Nation Under God, features a foreword from Missouri Congressman Todd Akin.