- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) - An atheist’s complaint has led South Carolina troopers to stop using state money to send a book including Bible passages to the family members of people who die in wrecks.

Public Safety Department spokesman Sherri Iacobelli says the agency immediately reversed course on the book titled “A Time to Grieve” after receiving a letter from the American Humanist Association on behalf of an atheist whose father died.

American Humanist Association Legal Director David Niose said the atheist, whom he did not name, was stunned at the content of the book troopers sent her, which includes a chapter titled “If God Seems Far Away.” To her, it seemed an obviously unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

The state spent $6,426 on a one-time buy of the books, using money from fees collected from people requesting accident reports and the department’s miscellaneous public funds, Iacobelli said.

“We have never seen a government office send out Christian literature without even knowing anything about the religious background of the person it is being sent to. This is really just stunning and incredibly insensitive. A church-state violation like this is pretty jaw dropping,” Niose told the Anderson Independent-Mail (https://bit.ly/2jg2zQO).

The book includes a Bible scripture from Psalm 6 with the passage: “O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony” and tells people that even if their grip on God slips during their grief, He has a firm hold on them.

Troopers will continue to send sympathy cards and instead give out a booklet with practical advice for grieving families, Iacobelli said.

“Our troopers and officers see firsthand every day the terrible human toll of losing a loved one, and we have compassion for these families,” Iacobelli said.

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