What happened next should have surprised no one.
An atheist rented a cabin for his family and found — you guessed it — Bibles.
The atheist protested to the park manager, who removed the Bibles and asked the state for a legal opinion on what he should do in the future. The Georgia attorney general determined it was OK to have the Bibles there because the state did not pay for them.
Deal ordered the Bibles returned and announced that any religious group was welcome to donate literature to put in the cabins.
Hearing that, the New Jersey-based American Atheists organization began packing up copies of “Why I am an Atheist” to send to Georgia.
One can quibble over whether atheism is a religion, but as far as the members of American Atheists are concerned, they have as much right to put literature in Georgia state parks as the Gideons.
“We expect fair treatment, we anticipate fair treatment and we look forward to fair treatment,” said David Silverman, president of the atheist group.
The organization’s managing director, Amanda Knief, added, “We appreciate the governor’s invitation to place atheist books in the cabins and look forward to providing visitors with the opportunity to learn about atheism when they visit Georgia’s beautiful state parks.”
That’s not, we suspect, what Gov. Deal had in mind.
Here in Alabama, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources does not have a program that allows the Gideons or anyone else to place religious material in state park cabins. If visitors want to bring their own, they are free to do so.
That is the way it should be.
Gov. Deal, take note.