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Tennessee Senate Votes Down Proposal to Make Bible Official State Book


John Burger - published on 04/17/15

Upper chamber takes safer road and sends bill to committee

Should the sacred scriptures of one or two religions be honored as the official book of a state, in the spirit of having a "state bird" or "state song?"

The Tennessee State Senate thinks not.

The upper chamber of the Tennessee legislature voted 22-9 Thursday to kill a bill that would have made  the Bible the official book of the Volunteer State.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said before the vote that it would be better to "look into it in committee."

Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery oppose the bill, which passed the House Wednesday; Slatery recently said he thinks the bill violates state and federal constitutions.

"All I know is that I hear Satan snickering," Norris told The Tennessean. "He loves this kind of mischief. You just dumb the good book down far enough to make it whatever it takes to make it a state symbol, and you’re on your way to where he wants you."

The bill sponsor in the Senate, Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, and other supporters argue the legislation would highlight the economic and historical impact of the Bible in Tennessee. "The Bible has great historical and cultural significance in the state of Tennessee," Southerland said Wednesday.

"I am a Christian, but I am also a constitutionalist and a conservative. It would be fiscally irresponsible to put the state in a position to have to spend tax dollars defending a largely symbolic piece of legislation," said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in a statement. "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."

An earlier article in The Tennessean described Wednesday’s debate:

House lawmakers debated the original bill for more than an hour Wednesday after a similar amount of discussion Tuesday. Sexton and other supporters say the original bill highlighted the economic and historical impact of the Bible.

But other supporters did argue the bill should be considered for its religious reasons.

"I am what I am because that book made me what I am. The morals, the values," said Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett.

"Everybody that talks about diversity: in this country, they’re here because of that book and that constitution."

FaithPoliticsReligious Freedom
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