Atheists books next to Bibles in Georgia cabins?

Atheists books next to Bibles: If Georgia state parks allow Bibles in cabins, atheists say they will put secular books next to the Bibles.

(AP Photo/Russ Bynum)
William Hunter, a Sunday school teacher in Georgia, holds a Bible he keeps in his camper while vacationing at Fort McAllister Historic State Park in Richmond Hill, Ga. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal this week ordered Bibles returned to state park lodges after a guest’s complaint caused an agency head to have them removed.

A national atheist group said Monday that it will donate its literature for use in cabins and lodges in Georgia's state parks after the governor's recent decision to allow Bibles there.

David Silverman, president of the Cranford, N.J.-based American Atheists organization, said his group is just waiting for an answer from the state on what the best procedure is to donate several books, including one titled "Why I Am An Atheist."

"We expect fair treatment, we anticipate fair treatment and we look forward to fair treatment," Silverman said. "If the state is going to put Bibles in the cabins, they must allow alternate points of view — all alternative points of view without taking sides."

But it was not at all clear Monday whether the atheist literature would find a place in the cabins alongside the Protestant Bibles.

Asked if the state would allow it, Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, would only say that the governor's office is working on regulations governing the distribution of materials with the Department of Natural Resources and the Attorney General's Office.

Silverman says he's expecting the state's decision to take no longer than it did for Deal to order the Bibles' return.

"There are lots and lots of atheists in Georgia, and there are lots of atheists who visit Georgia," Silverman said.

One of those atheists, Ed Buckner, was not happy last month when he discovered nine Gideon Bibles in the cabin he had rented with his family at Amicalola Falls State Park in north Georgia. When he complained, park managers removed the Bibles while they sought a legal decision from the Attorney General's Office.

The AG determined the state was on firm legal ground because it hadn't paid for the books. That prompted Deal last week to order the Bibles returned to the cabins at Amicalola and other state parks. In announcing the decision, the governor said any religious group was welcome to donate literature.

Silverman's group responded soon afterward.

"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," American Atheists Managing Director Amanda Knief said in a statement.

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Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy and Kate Brumback contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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