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This week, the Associated Press reported that a group called International Bible Society-Send the Light is "planning on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute Bibles with 11 newspapers during 2007 and 2008. New Testaments would be packaged in pouches on the outside of newspapers, much like soap or other sample products."

There are those who seem to support this idea: Tom Gross writes "[e]verything from detergent to DVDs are packaged with the Sunday newspaper. So why not Bibles?" But there are critics, too, who wrote into Fort Worth Star-Telegram reader advocate David House with their complaints.

Some said they did not want to be subject to proselytizing; others said the Bible should not be commercialized. And then there were those Christians who didn't like the idea of a Bible thrown onto a lawn and, potentially, thrown away by the disinterested.

The paper is going forward with the plan, assuming International Bible Society-Send the Light is able to raise the necessary funds. But it is in a difficult position: They're getting heat for accepting the request – which didn't, after all, violate their advertising policies – and they would have gotten even more had they turned it down, making this a literal case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

A newspaper, by virtue of its unique position in a particular community, can arouse in people the same objections, when it comes to religion, that are more regularly made against the state. Editors are expected to give careful consideration to whether they should put controversial images or ideas into the paper, whether they be subversion in a comic strip, death on the front page, or a Bible on the side. They are expected, on some level, to produce something universally appealing but still in touch with different sensibilities, which makes issues like this almost inevitable.

An interesting side thought: If you're willing to do this with the Bible, than wouldn't you have to be willing to do it with other religious texts – say, the Torah or the Koran? In the case of the latter, it would likely never happen, since the physical treatment of the text is considered to be a central part of its sacredness. That's why allegations that Guantanamo interrogators had dumped the Koran into a toilet to taunt prisoners were so explosive. You've got to think that Timmy the paperboy chucking it onto the front lawns of Fort Worth probably wouldn't go over too well, either.

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