NASHVILLE — A lawmaker in Tennessee has proposed a bill to make the Bible the state book.
Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) recently introduced HB 615 to amend the Tennessee Code to make the acknowledgment.
“The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book,” it simply reads.
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.”
State Rep. James VanHuss (R-Jonesborogh) has also submitted a resolution to add text to the state Constitution that would acknowledge that the rights of Tennessee citizens come from God.
“We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior” House Joint Resolution 71 reads.
But some are taking issue with the proposals, and 81 percent of those who have participated in an online poll by the Tennessean, one of the newspaper outlets in the Bible Belt state, oppose making the Bible the state book.
“Doesn’t state Rep. James VanHuss have anything better to do, like legislation that might actually help people’s lives? Maybe name a state bird or something?” wrote Fox News commentator Alan Colmes.
Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State also wrote a blog post about the matter, stating that the holy text is a bad choice, and that secular material is preferable. He noted that similar bills have been proposed in Mississippi and Louisiana.
“[G]oing with the Bible slights the many authors who are either from these states or who have written about them in significant ways (or both),”Boston wrote. “We’re not sure who wrote the Bible—it was likely many different authors—but we can say with confidence that none of them lived in the South.”
“I doubt the Bible played a major role in how any of them became a part of the United States,” he said.
“Allowing the government to single out a sectarian tome for special consideration sends a message to those who don’t venerate the Bible: You’re a second-class citizen,” Boston asserted. “Plus, proposals like this are often just a way for the Christian majority to obnoxiously remind everyone who’s in charge.”
As previously reported, three lawmakers in Mississippi likewise proposed to make the Bible the state book last month.
“Me and my constituents, we were talking about it and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible,” Rep. Michael Evans (D-Preston) told AL.com.
“The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people,” Rep. Tom Miles (D-Forest) added to the Associated Press. “They could read in there about love and compassion.”
In 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan declared the year 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,” he 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,” Reagan 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.”’