A bill in the Louisiana legislature would make the Bible the official state book.
Rep. Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport) introduced the bill which was passed by a House Committee 8-5 and now is in the full house for debate.
The bill has many supporters as well as many critics who argue the measure violates the “establishment of religion” clause in the First Amendment.
The test of whether a measure violates the Establishment Clause is whether it appears to be an endorsement of a specific religion, which was discussed in the committee hearing.
Fox News reported “It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature,” Carmody told the committee. Again, later he said, “This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana.”
Rep.Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans) said as a preacher’s son, he loved the concept. But he said as a lawyer, he thinks the bill has problems, voted against it.
“I think we’re going to open ourselves up to a lawsuit. You can’t adopt the Bible and not adopt Christianity,” he said.
MSNBC reported the original measure introduced would have made a specific edition of the King James Bible- the oldest edition of the text in the Louisiana State Museum System- the state book. But lawmakers amended the bill to designate simply the “Holy Bible” instead.
The bill received bi-partisan support with yes votes from four Democrats: Robert Billiot (Westwego), Mike Danahay (Sulphur), Dalton Honore (Baton Rouge), Steven Ortego (Carencro). Independent Terry Brown (Colfax) also voted in favor.
Jonathan Turley, professor at George Washington University Law School said there could be unintended consequences with the bill.
Writing on jonathanturley.org “If the bible is the official state book, there may be demands that it be featured more prominently in Louisiana schools, incorporated into lessons, and even promoted on state sites or campaigns. Then citizens can be exalted to read such passages as John 14:6: ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.'”
The bill had some representatives vehemently opposed to it.
“As an elected official on this committee and in this building, some of my constituents from the city of New Orleans and around the state will find this bill offensive,” said Jarred Brosset (D-New Orleans).
“You don’t think it’s offensive to some citizens of this state to select the Bible as the official state book?,” asked Ebony Woodruff (D-Harvey).
The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week.