Deal orders Bibles returned to state parks

Pack your fishing poles and hiking boots if you’re planning to stay overnight at one of Georgia’s state park cabins or lodges. But there’s no need to pack a Bible.

It will already be there, Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday.

The announcement from Deal came just days after the commissioner for the state Department of Natural Resources ordered the Bibles removed. The books were removed from cabins and lodges following a complaint from a park visitor, Deal said.

“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,” Deal stated in a press release. “The attorney general and I agree that the state is on firm legal footing as we move to return the Bibles to the rooms.”

Deal also addressed the issue at a Wednesday morning press conference. “I think it will happen rather quickly,” he told reporters.

At Hard Labor Creek State Park near Rutledge, a park ranger was returning Bibles to cabins Wednesday afternoon, Channel 2 Action News reported.

“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,” Deal said. “In fact, any group is free to donate literature.”

Bibles are as common a sight in many hotel chains as the tiny-sized bottles of shampoo. The Gideons International Group, based in Tennessee, is one of the major donors of the Bibles. The group estimates it has donated more than 1.7 billion Bibles since its inception in 1908.

More information regarding Georgia's state parks is available online.