An entrepreneur’s goal of publishing a Bible bound alongside the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other patriotic texts is taking a sharp detour after protests and a petition sprang up and a leading Christian publisher said it would not assist the project.
Hugh Kirkpatrick’s plan, with the endorsement of singer-songwriter Lee Greenwood, had been for the project dubbed the “God Bless the U.S.A. Bible” to use the New International Version (NIV) of the Scriptures alongside the American political writings and the lyrics to Mr. Greenwood’s 1984 hit.
But Casey Francis Harrell, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, told The Washington Times that the NIV text had not been licensed for use in this project.
“Zondervan is not publishing, manufacturing or selling the ‘God Bless the USA Bible.’ While we were asked for a manufacturing quote, ultimately the project was not a fit for either party, and the website and marketing of the NIV project were premature,” Ms. Harrell said in a statement.
HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Zondervan, which oversees the NIV’s commercial use on behalf of copyright holder Biblica, are both units of media conglomerate News Corp.
The NIV translation of the Bible, first released in 1978, is among the most popular modern English translations of the Scriptures.
But Mr. Kirkpatrick has a backup plan — the Authorized Version, better known as the King James Bible.
“The Bible’s gonna come out,” the Nashville, Tennessee, entrepreneur said. “It’ll look the same, it will just use the King James, not the NIV. We’re going to market it the same, promote it the same. Nothing changing on our end except the translation.”
The King James Bible was released in 1611 and is not under copyright.
Mr. Kirkpatrick, speaking by telephone, acknowledged getting “500 to 600” preorders for the proposed $49.99 volume at the www.godblesstheusabible.com website.
But he said he was not overly surprised at the turn of events.
“I kind of knew it would happen, and it’s OK. We’ve got a new printer and everything’s going to keep on going as scheduled,” he said.
The plan still is to release the “God Bless the U.S.A. Bible” on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack on America by Islamist terrorists.
The project had been controversial in evangelical and other Christian circles.
Because of the song’s use at 2020 campaign rallies by President Donald Trump, Mr. Kirkpatrick previously had told a reporter that some critical phone calls blasted him for producing a “Trump Bible.”
The name stuck for some, even though there was never any connection to the former chief executive, Mr. Kirkpatrick said.
“I kind of thank the ‘cancel culture.’ It seems to be a good thing,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said.
Evangelical activist John W. Morehead, whose Multifaith Matters group in Utah spearheaded an online petition asking HarperCollins to withdraw from the project, said he was pleased, warning that the project fueled “Christian nationalism.”
“In a sense, [the petition] was trying to put forward the idea that the publisher certainly has the freedom to offer any product,” Mr. Morehead said, adding he had hoped any firm would “run that desire by any theological reflection” on the potential consequences.
“Producing a Bible, packaged together to take the sacred text of Christianity and include the documents of American civil religion will exacerbate the problems of Christian nationalism in a segment of Christianity,” he said.
The Religion Unplugged news site first reported Tuesday that neither Zondervan nor HarperCollins Christian Publishing would license or produce the NIV for Mr. Kirkpatrick’s Elite Source Pro company.
That report also indicated that Thomas Nelson, another arm of the News Corp. empire, might produce the “God Bless the U.S.A. Bible” using the King James Version.
But Ms. Harrell denied that report to The Times.
“No, the Bible is not and never was going to be moved over to Thomas Nelson,” she said.
While he intended to order at least 21,000 copies of the now-canceled NIV product from HarperCollins, Mr. Kirkpatrick said he expects to “do better than that” using the more traditional King James text.
He said the “demographics” of the people most interested in the product — readers over the age of 40, he claimed — “skewed” towards the older Bible version.
Mr. Kirkpatrick said he had not relayed the latest developments to Mr. Greenwood, but hoped to do so this week.