Tennessee, known as the “Volunteer State” just took a step towards being more of an “obligatory” one with the sub-committee passage of House Bill 615 by Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) and Senate Bill 1108 by Sen. Steve Southerland (R), both which state in their text:
The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee, comprised of mostly republicans, approved the measure with a 7-0-2 vote. Not a single vote was cast opposing the bill, but two lawmakers did abstain from voting. Within an hour of the senate approval, the House State Government Committee, also Republican-controlled, approved their version of bill with additional points, supporting the measure.
As local news, WBIR points out, no other state has a “state book” with exception of Massachusetts, which does have a state children’s book. Last year, Louisiana attempted to pass a law making the Bible their state book, but the bill failed. However, in typical right-wing southern style, Mississippi has thrown their hand into the mix with two bills currently making their way through committees to declare the Bible their state book, as well.
Attorney General Herbert Slatery has preliminarily said the measure could be constitutionally suspect after a formal review of the legality was requested.
The Tennessee Constitution says, “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”
Sexton, who is in his first term, told Baptist Press,
Making the Bible our official state book isn’t a violation of either our Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. It is simply a recognition of its historical importance. To preclude the Bible simply because it is religious in nature is anathema to the First Amendment.
First of all, can we cut the bullsh*t? Of course making the Bible an official state book is giving preference to a specific religion. I honestly can’t even believe that is being denied by those that favor this attention-whorish behavior legislation. Are these right-wing conservatives so insecure in their own abilities, and I dare say, faith, that they must have endorsements in the form of state books and farcical religious freedom laws?
Because, state books are very necessary and certainly these types of extremely urgent bills should be at the very forefront of a state’s legislative priorities. Certainly, well in front of things like economic prosperity, healthcare reform, equality, education – or the plethora of other very real, very important issues our state governments face.
Fortunately, there is some unexpected opposition. Central Baptist of Bearden Associate Pastor Mark Moreland told WBIR,
We can’t require people to read it, we can’t be there when they might read it in the wrong spirit and take things out of context.
In addition, other religious lawmakers think that making the Bible a state book diminishes the message and importance of the book.
With this week’s approval, the bills only have to be reviewed by one other subcommittee, making it possible for the law to be passed later this month.
I can’t help but wonder, what would these lawmakers think if the proposal was to make the Quran the state book? Would they understand then just how inappropriate it is to favor one religion in such a way over all others? Likely not.
Watch WBIR‘s report:
Featured image via Dan Tantrum/Flickr