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The Gospels According to the Gazette

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Readers of Colorado Springs’ Gazette will find something unusual in their Sunday papers this weekend: a copy of the New Testament.

Inside, in addition to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc., Colorado Springs’ version includes a brief history of the city, as well as testimonials from two “regular” locals who have found God. Rhonda, 38, is pictured in a leather Harley girl get-up and talks about how, after “reckless years of being chained to alcohol, drugs and empty relationships,” her life has been turned around by Jesus. Jose, 74, is a “former military tough guy” with a woman in every port who is now getting to know God. In his testimonial, Jose declares, “Maybe God isn’t through with me yet.”

A Colorado Springs organization called the International Bible Society is paying the Gazette $36,000 to carry the inserts. The group says it raised the money from more than 130 churches and ministries, including Focus on the Family.

Colorado Springs is merely the first city where the International Bible Society plans to distribute the New Testament inside daily newspapers. Jackson said the group is currently in discussions with the Denver Post to distribute a Denver version; Seattle, Nashville and Santa Rosa, Calif. are also high priorities.

A website devoted to the project is set to go public on Sunday. Earlier this year, the society distributed specialized editions of the Gospel of Luke via newspapers in Jackson, Mississippi, and Houston, Texas.

But not all Gazette readers are happy about their newspaper’s special section, especially when they learned that it had originally been scheduled for distribution during Hanukkah.

[O]ver at Temple Shalom, the city’s largest Jewish congregation, the matter has already been widely discussed. Leave it to say, not everyone is thrilled. Temple Shalom administrator Mary Simon says some congregants plan to cancel their subscription in protest. But they also have another idea for people who don’t want the New Testament with their Sunday newspaper. Temple Shalom plans to collect unwanted Bibles and deliver them to a church or a homeless shelter that needs them. “We’re trying to make a positive statement,” Simon said.

Other congregants were offended at the idea of any religion’s scriptures being delivered with something as decidedly unholy as a newspaper.

For many Jews, putting Bibles in plastic sacks and then throwing them on the ground is desecrating God’s word. “We don’t even put our Bibles on the floor,” Simon noted. “If a car runs over it, or it falls into the gutter, that’s desecration; it’s the name of God.”

That’s a sentiment that is clearly not shared by the Gazette.

[P]ublisher Bob Burdick compared the plan to other endeavors, like giving out laundry detergent and America Online computer disks. “Just because we distribute something doesn’t mean we endorse it or don’t endorse it,” said Burdick.

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