Every school is to be sent a copy of the King James Bible to mark the 400th anniversary of its translation, it was revealed.
The move was condemned by non-religious groups who suggested it was unacceptable and a waste of public money.
It is understood that every school in England will receive a copy of the Bible, which will include a foreword by Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Ministers are said to believe that the text is a historically and culturally important document.
But the National Secular Society (NSS) suggested that the Department for Education (DfE) could put a message on its website and save "tens of thousands of pounds".
NSS president Terry Sanderson told the Times Educational Supplement (TES): "It's not as if Bibles are in short supply in schools. But if Mr Gove intends to go ahead with this, will he also please ensure that a copy of On The Origin Of Species is sent out on Darwin Day?
"This book is much harder to find in schools and would be in line with his policy of promoting science and evidence-based education. I'm sure that he could write an excellent foreword to this too."
Richy Thompson, campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association, told the TES: "Either the Government is funding this initiative itself at a time when it is making severe cuts elsewhere, or the Church is finding it but using the Government as a vehicle through which to promote Christianity - both are unacceptable."
Mr Gove said he believes that the translation of the Bible "is a critical moment in the life of the nation".
A DfE spokeswoman said: "We want all pupils to be able to access and understand the great literary and historical heritage of our nation. As many people have noted - from former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion to the director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor - the King James Bible continues to shape our culture."