Culture Ethics Institutions Politics

Tennessee House approves bill to make Bible official state book

Hand holding the Holy Bible.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said on Tuesday (April 14) that a bill under consideration in the legislature to make the Bible the official state book would be an unconstitutional endorsement that the sacred text does not need.

Photo courtesy of Office of Attorney General, State of Tennessee

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said on Tuesday (April 14) that a bill under consideration in the legislature to make the Bible the official state book would be an unconstitutional endorsement that the sacred text does not need.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.,  (Reuters)  Tennessee state legislators on Wednesday (April 15) advanced a bill to make the Bible the official state book, a measure the state attorney general said would be unconstitutional and Republican Governor Bill Haslam has called disrespectful.

The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives voted 55-38 to approve the Bible as state book. A companion bill could be considered as soon as Thursday (April 16)  in the state Senate, where Republicans hold 28 seats to five for Democrats.

Representative Bud Hulsey, a Republican, told colleagues in support of the bill it is worth the fight “now more than ever.”

Other Republican representatives opposed the bill, citing concerns about how Tennessee might be perceived and the cost of defending it against legal challenges.

“The controversy will not end in this chamber,” Representative Martin Daniel said. “If we pass this, we’re going to be ridiculed.”

Representative Marc Gravitt said the attorney general’s legal opinion made it clear Tennessee could spend millions of dollars in a losing effort to defend the measure if it becomes law.

Other representatives said recognizing the Bible as the state book and putting it alongside the official state tree, song or dance would trivialize it.

Representative Patsy Hazlewood, a Republican, said “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Pilgrim’s Progress” are books and calling the Bible a book is in itself wrong.

The bill also has drawn criticism from religious leaders and others – including Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III – who say it violates the separation of church and state under the U.S. Constitution and Tennessee’s constitution.

A spokesman has said the governor sees the bill as disrespectful of what the Bible is.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni.)

About the author

Reuters

38 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • So despite being warned that such a measure is a violation of both the US and State constitutions, and obviously not having anything better to do with their time as legislators, they are proceeding with this waste of time.

    So I guess all of the state’s problems are solved freeing up the Tennessee House to work on measures like this.

  • The majority are all for the Bible becoming the State Book, so let it be! The award means little more than the Bible is their favorite book. The title is as meaningless as Queen of England. Do we really need to waste time and money on this?

  • The majority rule overrides all considerations of civil liberties of anyone else!
    Constitution of the United States and the State of Tennessee be damned!

    This is why I never take Christians seriously when they talk about religious freedom. They have no concept of it.

    The award means much more than that, it means official government sponsorship of your mythological texts and a violation of the laws of the state and nation.

    Its just going to be vetoed by the Governor anyway. Endorsing it means wasting money of the state to fight a lawsuit knowing they will lose.

  • “Martin Daniel said…. “If we pass this, we’re going to be ridiculed.”

    As well you should be!

    What a disgrace. Republicans live to take American back to the Christian Sharia Bronze Age. It is WILLFULLY OPPOSED to our wonderful Constitution which forbids the Establishment by Government of a Religion!

    What a national embarrassment!
    At a time when science research can LAND US ON A COMET and medicine can USE VIRUSES TO KILL CANCERS there are a group of primitive troglodytes at work to disregard the astonishing freedoms of the Constitution – to abandon ship and head back into the CAVES OF FILTH where religion originated.

    If religion could just get out of the way and let honest people try to solve practical problems maybe we could all shut up about it.

    But until then, religion is a public nuisance – a self-imposed cage of thought.

    Religion obstructs the people’s business and disregards every decency.
    Abandon it while you still can!

  • Bud Hulsey, a Republican, told colleagues in support of the bill it is worth the fight “now more than ever.”

    Why?
    What virtue comes from holding up the Bible? the vicious hate of Jesus?

    “They are fools!” – JESUS (Matthew 23:17)
    “They are dogs!” – JESUS (Matthew 15:26)
    “they are swine!” – JESUS (Matthew 7:6)
    “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire…” – JESUS (Matthew 25:41 – 12)
    “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)
    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” (Matthew 18:15)
    “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)
    “EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME” – JESUS

    The Bible is only recommended by people
    who are ignorant of the Bible and who don’t understand the Constitution.

  • What a shameful spectacle it is to see TN legislators passing this empty, and unconstitutional, bill, while refusing to pass the Insure TN bill that would provide health insurance to 280,000 residents at no cost to the state. Doesn’t TN’s new Official Book say something somewhere about people who like to appear religious before others, but fail to take care of their neighbors as their religion commands?

  • First, you have never proved that the Bible is a myth, and second, the majority should have some say in politics. Doesn’t the majority elect our President. Doesn’t the President swear in with his hand on a Bible? Funny, how we are not a Christian nation. Where are the atheist candidates for Prez, anyway?

  • Why is it unconstitutional? It is a symbolic nod to a beloved book……I think it’s hilarious that the atheists are as crazed as the gays. Should we boycott Tennessee now?

  • “First, you have never proved that the Bible is a myth.”

    Um, the burden of proof is on Bible-believers. And even then there’s still that hurdle of the Establishment Clause.

    “Second, the majority should have some say in politics.”[…] “Funny, how we are not a Christian nation.”

    So which is it today? Christians are a majority in a Christian nation and get to ignore other people’s rights? Or Christians are marginalized and persecuted by an intolerant, anti-Christian culture? Make up your mind already.

  • Well, one, the TN AG said so. Two, enshrining the beliefs or symbols of a particular religion by an act of law violates the state and US constitution’s Establishment Clauses. I agree that the title “Official State Book” is largely symbolic and therefore next to meaningless, but a symbolic violation of the constitution is still a violation. Last, how many Christians would [expletive deleted] a constitutional brick if some legislator suggested the Qur’an be made TN’s official book?

    And if you stop calling me an atheist, I’ll stop calling you an idiot. Plenty of religious folks in TN object to this farcical bill. Including me. No one is calling for a boycott. Just a veto. A some meaningful legislation to address real issues in TN.

  • I don’t think it will be perceived that way, but I do like the notion of trivializing the Christian bible by allowing it to become the state book. Maybe it will lead others to the conclusion that it is not worth more consideration or esteem than any other book, except in an appropriate context, such as literary studies.

  • Well if it is more than just a book of myths and stories, then its inclusion by the state is even more illegal! It means you are saying the state is violating the its constitution to endorse it.

    ” the majority should have some say in politics”

    See Bill of Rights. Majority rule is always limited when it tramples the rights of political minorities. Might makes right is not a governing principle in a democratic government.

    “Doesn’t the majority elect our President.”

    And the President is still limited in powers by the rules set up to elect him. The opposition party in Congress remind them that fact on a daily basis.

    So what you are saying is you don’t understand how democracy and civil liberties work. What else is new?

    “Where are the atheist candidates for Prez, anyway?”

    Politics is weird. White women make up the majority population, why haven’t we had one as president since women had the right to vote more than a century ago.

  • “Why is it unconstitutional?”

    http://www.tennessee.gov/sos/bluebook/07-08/47-Constitution,%20Tennessee.pdf
    Section 3. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship
    Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.

    I find it hilarious how ignorant Christians are about rights they claim every time one of them wants to sound important. All I hear is you bozos screaming about your religious freedom but the majority don’t know squat about what it actually means. Are you all so stupid or just really bad liars?

  • I’ve given proof that the Gospels are historically true, Eros. I want to read first century accounts that refute the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ existence and life as written. With Christianity growing rapidly, where are the “anti-Gospel” accounts from the Jews, from Rome, anywhere?
    Therefore the Gospels, the Epistles, the Acts stand as contemporary accounts of events recorded by eyewitnesses.
    The majority is the majority for a reason…..some under dogs are truly dogs, not all are misunderstood, righteous people.

  • Your ill-informed ideas about the gospel’s historical veracity aside, damn but how you can honestly write sentences like this?

    “The majority is the majority for a reason…..some under dogs are truly dogs, not all are misunderstood, righteous people.”

    So, might makes right and the mighty reserve the right to treat others as less than human if they are deemed unworthy. Wow, this is despicable, and utterly unChristian but thanks for reminding us why we have the Bill of Rights in the first place.

  • James,

    I already gave up on Religion. The whole enterprise is a public nuisance.

    JESUS : “DON’T THINK FOR YOURSELF, STAY CHILDISH AND IGNORANT – KEEP TRUSTING AUTHORITY BLINDLY – LIKE A LITTLE BABY”
    “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – JESUS (Matthew 18:3)

    What a public nuisance.
    You have every right to believe in Jesus – and to smoke 7 packs of cigarettes a day. But keep this toxic nonsense out of our laws.

  • “we are merely stupid”

    Which you prove with every asinine comment you make. Jesus would be proud.

  • @James,

    That is another LIE Jesus tells. There is no context in which bigotry and incendiary speech is ‘good’.

    It is permissible by law to be hateful – it is not ‘good’ to do so. And there is no context where genocide is good.

  • Probably not. You have given proof that Christians believe the Gospels are true and also that they are fairly uncritical when it comes to what they will accept as evidence when it is in service of their faith.

    Where is the bill for the Last Supper? Where are the records from Roman officials that Jesus was executed? What we know of the ancient world is fairly limited. One thing we know about historical writers of antiquity is they had a habit of embellishment. Roman writers not only embellished, they usually did so for specific political reasons of their era. We have entire civilizations lasting for centuries whom we know next to nothing about except from the POV of the people who wiped them out.

    No writer of the New Testament had their works published until generations after the fact. Show me stories which stay the same after 100 years from their original telling. It doesn’t happen. Human nature is to stretch stories to meet the storyteller’s needs.

    Are you done whining?

  • Believers are not stupid.

    But the politics to put Christianity in charge of government is stupid. And it is suddenly popping up everywhere.

    I don’t blame Larry for being frustrated. He has been calling people ‘liars’ lately. I don’t do that because I can’t know who is just ignorant or who is willfully trying to mislead.

    Atheists like us are losing confidence in our fellow American Christians to understand the importance of keeping Religion and Government separate. Not enough people are speaking up about it.

    If we cannot convince Americans to pay attention to the Constitution, the next best thing is to try to increase secularism a bit more so religion’s power goes away.

    Fewer people smoke cigarettes today so the Tobacco Lobby is dead. As fewer people bother with religion, the Evangelical Juggernaut is dying off too. And the Republicans will lose their funding – THAT is what worries them – not the loss of Christianity.
    That is why this whole thing is a public…

  • Oh, now Jesus lies ! Well, to you he doesn’t exist so, in that case, Cinderella is a liar too.

  • Do you really think so, Erika? Thanks for the compliment. Wow, Jesus proud of me! I HAVE MADE IT !

  • The best selling book of all time, the most esteemed book in the world, the book that’s mere existence stirs man to love or hate. Don’t think it could ever be trivialized.

  • There should be a separation of church and state and religion should not get involved in politics and wars.

    The Bible is the Word of God and definitely takes precedence over any man-made laws and/or its Constitutions. Many of man’s laws are opposed to God’s laws, principles and guidelines, which could pose a problem to man’s governments, as in this case. Which one will be endorsed then?

  • James,

    You are doing absolutely nothing to further your point. You are using ridiculous arguments and one-liners you probably picked up in Sunday school. “You took that out of context!” Nope. The bible is full of nonsense. Christians love taking things out of context when it supports their view, but when it gets turned around ‘OUT OF CONTEXT! PERSECUTION!’

    What about that part where is says it’s ok to rape women if you give their dad some money? OUT OF CONTEXT! OUT OF CONTEXT!

  • @James,

    “Oh, now Jesus lied…”

    Of course, JESUS LIED. Isn’t lying a sin?

    “‘Go to the festival yourselves.
    I AM NOT GOING to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, THEN HE ALSO WENT not publicly but IN SECRET.” (John 7.8-10).

    The New Testament is full of such lies of Jesus.

    Try reading your Bible. Ever try it?
    I do get tired of teaching Christians what is in it!

  • Um, the first Gospel was written in 62 AD, 29 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. The Epistles were written even earlier….hardly “generations after”. So they are apparently true documentations. Where are any contemporary refutations?

    Atheists could never be elected, for the name itself is surly to most people. I think after 8 years of Obama, a woman’s chance of becoming President has moved out a few more elections…….Obama is a weakling, and Clinton is too butch and power mad. The country needs a fresh, ballsy, man of integrity, like Colin Powell, Chris Christie, or Mitt Romney.

  • Derek,
    My point is my point, and my juvenile one-liners are for you juveniles here. Saying the Gospels are valid accounts of Jesus’ life is a ridiculous argument? Why ? Again, show me refutation of the Gospel accounts written at the same time. No one thought it prudent to squash this enormously popular movement by countering it with the “real” story ? Everyone just let Christianity aid the fall of Rome and then keep alive Western Civilization through the Dark Ages? This “myth’ you claim has certainly had more staying power than any secular ideology I can think of.
    Just don’t read my comments if they upset your immature conscience.

  • Like I said eons ago, this crowning of the Bible as the State Book is a meaningless act. It is not the end of the world, as you fear, either. It is just something the people of Tennessee wanted, like a blue ribbon at the County Fair. Guess California, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts will guide Tennesseans on what their State Book will be.

  • “It is just something the people of Tennessee wanted…”

    No, it isn’t. It was the pet project of a freshman representative and former pastor.

    “It is not the end of the world, as you fear, either.”

    Strike two. Never said that. I said it was a waste of taxpayer time and money and a textbook example of conservative Christian hypocrisy.

    “Guess California, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts will guide Tennesseans on what their State Book will be.”

    I forgot your fall-back option: whine about secular culture, a more passive-aggressive way of complaining than yelling ‘persecution.’

  • “The country needs a fresh, ballsy, man of integrity, like Colin Powell, Chris Christie, or Mitt Romney.”

    This is why we can’t have nice things. Like democracy.

  • It’s still just a book. It’s mere existence doesn’t inspire people. That doesn’t make any sense. My mere existence didn’t inspire you to comment. My actions and the ideas I espoused inspired you to do so. Your bible is no different. People are inspired by ideas; often, their romantic inflation of these ideas leads them to poorly supported conclusions, kind of like the pitfall you just tumbled into.

    It will be trivialized as more people arrive at the conclusion that there are more relevant, more interesting books to read on history, politics, cosmology, sociology, and philosophy, James. Modern education has seen to that.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.

ADVERTISEMENTs