JACKSON, Miss. — Three Mississippi lawmakers have proposed bills to make the Bible the state book.
Rep. Tracy Arnold (R-Boonville), a non-denominational pastor, recently introduced a proposal in the House to recognize the value of the Scriptures, and Rep. Tom Miles (D-Forest) and Michael Evans (D-Preston), both Baptists, introduced a similar bill in the Senate.
“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 told AL.com.
“The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people,” Miles added to the Associated Press. “They could read in there about love and compassion.”
Mississippi was rated the most religious state in the nation according to a recent poll, with 59 percent identifying themselves as being religious. While the teddy bear has been recognized as the state bear, square dancing as the state folk dance and milk as the state beverage, no publication has yet been regarded as the state book.
Although some have been supportive of the concept, others have expressed opposition. Writer Jimmie Gates of the Clarion Ledger said that while he reads the Bible and carries it with him to church, he feels that “[t]here are a lot more pressing issues in Mississippi than creating a law to name the Bible as the state’s official book.”
“It may be a worthy idea that people want the good book as the state official book, but wouldn’t it be better for our legislators to leave the book of religion to religion?” he recently wrote in an online piece for the publication. “It’s sort of like someone wanting to dictate their religion to others.”
As previously reported, Rep. Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport) proposed a bill last year to make the Bible the state book of Louisiana.
“The Bible was their main inspiration along with our forefathers—Washington and all of them,” he stated. “They looked to it for their inspiration for our country. They called upon God to help us.”
But Carmody later withdrew the proposal, advising that he would not be moving forward with the bill due to assertions that the legislation was becoming a distraction from “more important debates,” such as the state budget.
In 2012, lawmakers in Pennsylvania unanimously passed a resolution that declared a “Year of the Bible.” The resolution stated that not only has the Bible been an important part of America’s history, but that in difficult times such as the present, there is a “national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.”
President Ronald Reagan made 1983 the national “Year of the Bible.”
“Many of our greatest national leaders—among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson—have recognized the influence of the Bible on our country’s development,” Reagan stated. “The plainspoken Andrew Jackson referred to the Bible as no less than ‘the rock on which our Republic rests.’”
“Today our beloved America and, indeed, the world, is facing a decade of enormous challenge,” he continued. “There could be no more fitting moment than now to reflect with gratitude, humility, and urgency upon the wisdom revealed to us in the writing that Abraham Lincoln called ‘the best gift God has ever given to man . . . But for [without] it we could not know right from wrong.”’