Education Secretary Michael Gove has defended his plan to send copies of the King James Bible to schools across England.
Mr Gove said the scheme was funded by philanthropists and that it was important to mark the 400th anniversary of a “literary masterpiece”.
He stressed the King James Bible was picked for historic and cultural reasons rather than on purely religious grounds, but did not rule out distributing other holy books.
The plan has proved controversial as it is unlikely that there is a school that does not already have a copy of a Bible and some claim the £370,000 could have been better spent.
It has also been dismissed as a vanity project because the Bibles are marked “presented by the Secretary of State for Education”.
Mr Gove told the BBC that he did not know about the inscription.
“I have to confess that I didn’t know they were going to say ‘presented by the Secretary for Education’ until I actually saw the first Bible,” he said. “In a way I don’t mind.”
He said the Education Department had received “hundreds of letters” from delighted heads.
Mr Gove said: “In a way anything that focuses attention on what is, after all, a literary masterpiece first and foremost and anything which makes us reflect on the role of that translation in the life of our country, is a great thing.”