Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tennessee lawmakers pass bill making Bible the book of the state

Tennessee lawmakers voted to make the Bible the official book of the state, passing the measure with a 19-8 vote and sending it to the governor's desk for approval.

Opponents argued the bill, if signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, actually trivializes the Bible and opens the door to constitutional challenges.

"The Bible is a book of history," said Sen. Ferrell Halle, a Republican who opposed the bill, the Tennessean reported. "It is not a history book to be placed on the shelf."

But as Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro pointed: Lawmakers actually place their hands on the Bible when taking the oath of office. And as Republican Sen. Kerry Roberts, who favored the bill, said: "The very founding of our nation, the very form of government that we have today, was put forth by men of faith, based on their faith, based on what they read in Holy Scripture."

State symbols are entered into the Tennessee Blue Book, the state's annually produced guide to state government.

It's not clear if Haslam would sign it, and if he does, if opponents would fight back in court.

Right after the vote, ACLU-Tennessee executive director Hedy Weingberg spoke out, the Tennessean reported: "Lawmakers' thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions clearly violates both the United States and Tennessee constitutions, as our state attorney general has already pointed out.  Privileging one religion over another not only tramples on the Constitution, it marginalizes the tens of thousands of Tennesseans who choose to practice other religions or not to practice religion at all.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion months ago suggesting the measure would violate church-state separation mandates.

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