Tennessee Senate Committee Approves Revived Bill to Make Bible State Book

RomansNASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Senate committee in Tennessee has approved a bill that would designate the Bible as the official state book.

As previously reported, H.B. 615 had been introduced last year by Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, but after being approved by the House, was shelved by the Senate, which sent the measure back to committee for further consideration after its constitutionality was questioned.

“The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book,” the bill simply reads.

The effort was revived this year by sponsor Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, and is expected to pass. Now S.B. 1108, the bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday 7-1. It is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate on Monday.

“The Holy Bible has a great historical and cultural significance in the state of Tennessee, as the record of the history of Tennessee family that predates modern vital records,” Southerland said, stating that the designation would be made on historical, not religious, grounds.

Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, also spoke in favor of the move during the committee hearing, noting that the Founding Fathers highly valued the Bible.

“[George Washington] used the Bible for his swearing in,” he said.

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Roberts additionally noted the mindset of the nation’s first Congress.

“The attitude of these people was not to keep religion out of government. It was to keep government out of religion,” he said.

However, the ACLU of Tennessee has expressed its opposition to the move, stating that it promotes Christianity over other religions.

“The rich religious diversity in our state is best respected by ensuring that government does not promote specific religious books. Selecting the Bible as the state book amounts to government promotion of one religion over other religions, which clearly violates both the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions,” it said in a statement. “America is a place where people are free to practice religion, or not, without government officials deciding which beliefs should be endorsed.”

Tennessee has a number of adopted state symbols that have been approved by the state legislature, as the tomato was designated the state fruit by the General Assembly in 2003, the Eastern boxing turtle was designated the state reptile in 1995, and the square dance was agreed upon as being the state dance in 1980. Tennessee also has several state songs, such as the “Tennessee Waltz” and “Rocky Top,” the latter of which sings of a girl who was “half bear, other half cat; wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop.”

Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, both of whom identify as Christians, are opposed to the measure as they believe that it devalues the Bible.

“There’s nothing more important to me than my faith. I had time with the Bible this morning,” Haslam, an elder at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, stated last year. “But I don’t think it should be relegated to … like the salamander as the official lizard or whatever we call the different things we have official in our state.”

“I mean, the Bible is my official book; it is,” Ramsey also remarked. “It shouldn’t be put in the Blue Book with ‘Rocky Top,’ salamanders and tulip poplars. I’m sorry; it just shouldn’t.”


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  • The Skeptical Chymist

    This is yet another example of Christians wanting to mark their territory, to make it clear to one and all that the state government approves of Christianity and no other religion. America is a lot more diverse than this, and even in Tennessee there are devout Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, not to mention atheists. In an American culture that proclaims religious liberty, there should be no role for the governmental endorsement of one religion over another. I’m glad I’m not a resident of Tennessee. I would be embarrassed by my legislature if I lived there.

    • bowie1

      It’s home to many famous country music singers. You might need to miss them if country music is your thing.

      • Frank Dorka

        or living in a trailer park, getting your first shoes at eleven and having more fingers than teeth.

        • bowie1

          I take it you wouldn’t mind living in Tennessee?

          • Frank Dorka

            You call that living?

          • bowie1

            I don’t live in Tennessee but I imagine some of these things are probably not on most people’s lives who are involved with work, family, etc. People of other religions can go on practicing their own faiths without state interference regardless of an endorsement or not.

  • BarkingDawg

    More FAIL

  • Ambulance Chaser

    I’ll consider supporting this bill as soon as someone explains how it passes the Lemon test.

    In order for a state action to pass constitutional muster, it must satisfy all three of these conditions:

    1. It must have a valid, secular purpose.
    2. It must neither advance nor inhibit any religion.
    3. It must not excessively entangle government and religion.

    Lemon v. Kurtzman

    • Frank Dorka

      Three out of three ain’t bad.

    • John_33

      It recognizes the cultural and historical value that the Bible has had on the US.

      • Ambulance Chaser

        No it doesn’t, it just makes the Bible the official state book. It doesn’t say what that means.

        Anyway, what about #2? Can you honestly say this doesn’t promote religion?

        • John_33

          Are you saying that states cannot make a book the state book because of the cultural significance — even if that book was religious? I greatly disagree.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            You can disagree all you want, but that isn’t an argument.

            And yes, I am saying that, regardless of the “cultural significance,” no state can designate a holy book its “official state book” because doing so would advance religion, which violates the second prong of the Lemon test, and thus is unconstitutional.

          • John_33

            You can claim that all you want, but I think culture cannot be disregarded. Making it the state book is in no way saying that it’s superior. That’s your interpretation.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            That’s exactly what it’s doing. That’s the whole point.

          • John_33

            That’s not what it means when a state decrees something to be a state symbol. It simply means that the state finds it to be an important part of what makes the state what it is today.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            And you’re saying that declaring the Bible the “state book” does not encourage people to read it?

          • John_33

            What does that have to do with its legality? We are talking about a book that has cultural significance for the state of Tennessee – this cannot be denied. Alabama has a State Bible from the 1850s. Tennessee can declare that the Bible is a culturally relevant symbol that impacted the state.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Because if you’re “encouraging people to read” a Holy Book, you’re advancing religion. And if “you” are the government, well congratulations, you’ve just violated the second prong of Lemon.

            Here are some examples of things that violate the “advancement” prong:

            -Voluntary school commencement activities that include an invocation (Lee v. Weisman)

            -Posting Ten Commandments in public school classrooms (Stone v. Graham)

            -Using public funds to buy educational materials for religious schools (Board of Education v. Allen, Meek v. Pittenger, and Wolman v. Walter)

            Now, show me some examples of the state declaring a religious book its “official book” that WASN’T held to violate the Lemon test.

          • John_33

            The Alabama State Bible is a good example. It doesn’t matter if people read the Bible because of it. It’s a historically significant part of the state’s culture.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No, it doesn’t matter. It’s unconstitutional even if no one pays attention to it.

          • John_33

            Are you suggesting that the Alabama State Bible is unconstitutional?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Probably, but it’s not equivalent to what Tennessee is trying to do here, and as such, there’s really no reason to bring it up.

            But since you did, the Alabama State Bible is one, specific book. Not just “the Bible, any copy.” It refers to ONE Bible, with an inscription, and the historical significance of it being involved in Jefferson Davis’s inauguration. Why Alabama would want to honor a traitor’s Bible is beyond me, but there you go.

          • John_33

            But according to your argument, people may be encouraged to read the Bible because Alabama chose it. It’s the same thing essentially. The only difference is that Tennessee is recognizing that the Bible itself is a culturally significant item.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No, it doesn’t “prove” that. No court has ruled the Alabama Bible constitutional either.

          • John_33

            This is Alabama’s oldest state symbol. The fact that there has been no challenge to the Alabama State Bible suggests that people recognize that it is simply a cultural state symbol. Tennessee is doing the same thing by recognizing the Bible as a significant state symbol that has impacted its history and culture.

    • acontraryview

      Are you the Lemon?

      • Ambulance Chaser

        Thats…an odd thing to say.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Good! The Holy Bible has been USA’s only State Book anyway. USA needs the Holy Bible like a lifeline because the nation has no morality whatsoever apart from it.

    • acontraryview

      So every person of every faith other than Christianity, and every person who does not adhere to any faith, has no morals?

    • Ambulance Chaser

      I should hope it’s not the USA’s “only state book.” That would be massively unconstitutional.

      • Frank Dorka

        MASSIVELY!

    • Tree L. Bolling

      Is this the morality you wish upon America?
      The God of the Bible also allows slavery, including selling your own daughter as a sex slave (Exodus 21:1-11), child abuse (Judges 11:29-40 & Isaiah 13:16), and bashing babies against rocks (Hosea 13:16 & Psalms 137:9). This type of criminal behavior should shock any moral person.

  • acontraryview

    They must be up for reelection.

    • ChipO1

      Yeah, darn those politicians who take their voters’ wishes into account.

      • acontraryview

        What is your basis for suggesting that the Kentucky electorate wants the Bible to be the official book of Kentucky?

  • Frank Dorka

    Second choice was “Fun With Dick and Jane”. Both books haven’t been read by most people in Tennessee.