In January, AL reported that two Mississippi Democrat Representatives had pushed for the Bible to become the state book. The two Dems are Tom Miles of Forest and Michael Evans of Preston. The Mississippi reps have pushed a bill that will make the Bible the official book of the state.
A pair of Mississippi state legislators want the Bible to be the state's official book. http://t.co/smQTFysceO
— Americans United (@americansunited) January 15, 2015
Evans told AL that he got the idea while speaking with constituents.
“Me and my constituents, we were talking about it and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible.”
Evans said that “all the things going wrong in the world” was being discussed and some suggested making the Bible the state book. Evans is a Baptist and said, “I believe in the Bible.” Evans admonished those who might criticize the bill, “the bill doesn’t force anyone to read it,” but he hopes that people will be encouraged to pick it up.
Rep Tom Miles told AP that he is “not trying to force religion” but “sees the Bible as promoting kindness and compassion.” However, an article by Raw Story said that Miles and Evans told AL that the idea came from a constituent who believed if the Bible became the state book, “it would encourage people to read the text of the Christian religion.”
— Raw Story (@RawStory) February 16, 2016
The bill had been introduced before in Mississippi, but died in committee until Miles and Evans brought it up again. Other efforts in Tennessee and Louisiana have been made before but failed also.
Republican rep Thomas Carmody of Louisiana tried to pass legislation making the Bible the state book of Louisiana. Carmody said the proposal had become a “distraction,” and after being forced to explain he was not trying to establish a state religion, he dropped the proposal.
Sorry, not bills, just one bill to make the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana has passed out of committee. #lalege
— Julia O'Donoghue (@JSODonoghue) April 10, 2014
A similar bill was stopped in Tennessee by the state senate last year, with most of the opposition coming from Republicans. Tennessee’s Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey told the Los Angeles Times that “We don’t need to put the Bible beside salamanders, tulip poplars and ‘Rocky Top’ in the Tennessee Blue Book to appreciate its importance to our state.”
Tennessee Senate shelves bill that would name Bible as state book https://t.co/QCQIuC5d1f
— Sarah Junner (@SarahJunner) November 27, 2015
The Christian Post said the bill to promote the Bible as the state book was known as House Bill 840. CP said that Tom Miles was interviewed by local media and he argued that the bill should “not be considered controversial given the legislature voted a couple years ago to add ‘In God We Trust’ to the state seal.”
“We’re not requiring anyone to go out and by the Bible. We’re not requiring anyone to read the Bible,” Miles said.
“We’re not forcing them to pass a test about the Bible. It’s symbolic in nature, just like the state bird, the state flower.”
Not everyone agrees with Miles and Evans, however. CP noted that the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi argued that HB 840 “goes against the separation of church and state.”
— Aimee Stanford (@Aimeevacations) January 13, 2015
The director of communications for ACLU in Mississippi, Zaklya Summers-Harlee, told CP that “the group believes HB 840 ‘violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as it promotes one religion over the others.'”
“It fails to recognize the diversity of Mississippi residents. Lawmakers should not be promoting policies that divide Mississippians along religious lines,” said Summers-Harlee. “We hope, just as its predecessor, that it will die in committee. ACLU of Mississippi will continue to track this bill, and challenge any policies that do not provide protection of religious freedom.”
— Jim Prince (@jimprincems) January 12, 2015
CP had also interviewed another Christian, Dr. Richard Land, the president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary who also agreed the Bible should not be the state book, but for a different reason. Dr. Land told CP that he “doesn’t believe that establishing the Bible as the state book of Mississippi is a smart idea, no matter what percentage of the state claims to hold Christian faith.”
Land added that from a Christian perspective, making the Bible the state book would mean the state is conceding that the Bible is just historical text and nothing more. This would be in conflict with Christian beliefs that the Bible is much more than just a book.
“For those who are Christians, one can’t be neutral about the Bible. The Bible, for many Americans, is sacred text. It is the Holy Scripture. If you try to approach it as just a historical book. That is not neutral. To me, that [degrades] the status of Scripture.”
So what if you're atheist, Buddhist Muslim or Hindu? In Mississippi they're trying to make the bible your book! https://t.co/a1KYeN34ek
— Reverb Press (@ReverbPress) February 15, 2016
Land also said that other religious groups and minorities such as Jews, Muslims, and even atheists and agnostics would be offended if the Bible were to become the state book.
What are your thoughts on making the Bible a state book? Feel free to comment below.