On Monday, Tennessee came one step closer to making history after its Senate approved the bill that makes the Bible state’s official book.
The legislators approved the bill after more than 30 minutes of debate, which resulted in a 19-8 vote. Tennessee’s state Senate is now waiting for the approval of Governor Bill Haslam.
“The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book,” says in the bill before it was approved. “This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring.”
Senator Steve Southerland of Morristown created and promoted the bill. He argued that the bill aimed to show the historical and cultural contributions of the Bible to their state.
On the other hand, other legislators including Attorney General Herbert Slatery are opposing the passing of the bill, saying that it would violate separation of church and state provisions.
Other opponents are saying that the bill would trivialize the Bible because it would be lined up with other non-sacred official state symbols such as the raccoon, milk, square dance, and others.
“I don’t think that’s why we read the Bible, I don’t think that’s why we send our kids to vacation Bible school,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro. “To those of us who grew up in this faith, it is so much more.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Southerland said that the legislation does not aim to promote any form of religion but is merely a tribute to the Christians’ Holy Book and its contributions to the state.
Last year, the House approved the bill by a narrow 55-38 vote, but nobody expected it to proceed after the Senate sent it to a committee. The House sponsor of the bill, Representative Jerry Sexton of Bean Station, tried to make amendments by changing the proposed official book to Andrew Jackson’s Bible, but the effort failed.
However, just last week, the bill was revived after it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, 7-1, at its meeting on March 29.
The recent approval of the bill is seen as another “God and guns” move by legislators for this year’s elections, especially in a predominantly Republican state like Tennessee. It is also interesting that the Senate passed the bill just days before the deadline for candidate filing.
In the same session on Monday, legislators also passed another bill – one that makes the.50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle the state’s official rifle. Republican supporter Ronnie Barrett owns the company who makes the rifles.
Now that the state senate has approved the bill, it is up to Gov. Haslem to approve or veto it.
In a previous report, Haslem, who opposed the bill last year, said that he still has “personal reservations” regarding the Bible bill, although he did not make it clear whether he would approve or veto it.
Hedy Weinberg, who is the executive director of The American Civil Liberties Union in the state, urges the Republican governor to veto the bill. She said that the bill was clearly an effort to “promote one religion over other religions.”
Tennessee is not the first state to file a bill that would make the Bible its official book. In February, Mississippi also made a similar attempt in order to give it prominence for its contributions to the state. The bill is still in committee.
Louisiana also made a similar attempt, but it failed. Alabama, on the other hand, has an official Bible, which was used to swear in Jefferson Davis as the Confederate president. However, it is not the state’s official book.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]