Hand holding the Holy Bible.

Thou shalt not: Tennessee governor vetoes bill to make Bible state book

April 15, 2016

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Hand holding the Holy Bible.

Hand holding the Holy Bible.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - The governor of Tennessee vetoed legislation on Thursday that would have made the Christian Bible the state's official book, saying it would violate the U.S. Constitution, but lawmakers vowed to hold a vote to overrule his decision.

In a letter notifying top state lawmakers of his intent to veto the legislation, Governor Bill Haslam, himself a Christian, said the proposal violated religious freedoms enshrined in both the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution.

"My personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is sacred text," Haslam, a Republican, wrote.

RELATED STORY: Why making the Bible Tennessee’s state book is a bad idea (COMMENTARY)

The veto comes a week after the state Senate voted to make the Bible the state's official book. That vote followed the state House's approval last year.

Haslam, who won re-election in 2014, faced mounting pressure from civil libertarian and non-theistic groups to stop the measure from becoming law.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, praised the decision, saying elected officials should not "use their official positions to favor one religious belief over another."

Had Haslam signed the bill, Tennessee would have become the first U.S. state to designate theBible as its official state book.

The lawmakers who sponsored the measure vowed to hold a vote that would overrule Haslam's veto. A simple majority in each legislative chamber would overrule his decision.

"According to polling, 62 percent of all Tennesseans favor making the Holy Bible the state book in order to recognize its significance from a historical, economic and cultural standpoint," the House sponsor, Representative Jerry Sexton, said.

"Senator (Steve) Southerland and I are prepared to move forward with a veto override and we plan to do exactly that."


  1. The law would not violate the Constitution. Bill Haslam is Governor of the State of Tennessee, not the US Congress. The state of Tennessee, it’s legislature and governor are not the Federal Government. The Bible was the main textbook in US schools for at least the first 100 years with no constitutional crisis. Sign the bill Bill.

  2. Chuck, firearms are supposed to be lethal. I guess I’m one of the “knuckle-dragging Krazy Kristian Krackers” It’s just a guess on my part, but I bet your a liberal/democrat. The cradle of the KKK is the democrat party.

  3. Don’t worry little loony bird, I’ll help you here.
    1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Whew that was easy. Your silly superstitions are no more special than some witch doctor in Africa throwing chicken bones in a fire.

  4. The governor said, “My personal feeling is that this bill rivializes the Bible, which I believe is sacred text.”

    If that’s true, then I would urge the governor to sign the bill. The trivialization of the Bible is long overdue, and I would welcome anything that shortens the time until Christianity takes its rightful place alongside Greek mythology.

  5. Bob, stop with the ignorance. Historically, the Democratic Party (get the name right) is a coalition of people that included conservatives. They have not always been liberal and are not today, although I doubt there are any conservatives left in the party. The same is true for the GOP, which was historically home to liberals, with there being few if any left in the party today. While the Democratic Party was most probably the cradle of the KKK, it was not the liberals who gave birth to it.

  6. Bob, you have that backwards, but, of course, there is no such thing as “the democrat party.” That is just a sleazy way of abbreviating the name of The Democratic Party which gives comfort to those who have difficulty beating it. But The Democratic Party split in 1860 over the issue of slavery. The KKK acquiesced itself to Republican Presidencies via the disputed election of 1876, wherein Rutherford B. Hayes was able to steal the election with Southern electoral votes on a promise to end Reconstruction. The disputed Democratic convention of 1824 was due to both support and opposition to the KKK. In 1960, a significant number of African-Americans supported Richard Nixon. This changed by 1968 with the instituting of The Southern Strategy. While both parties have taints of racism today the Democrats seek to atone for them while the GOP doubles down.

  7. Greek mythology has been updated and in a field such as analytical psychological those flaming Greek Gods and Goddesses are now seen as behaviors, perspectives and yes, pathologies. In other words these characters are fictions, useful fictions but not Gods.

  8. Bod seems to be unaware of the 14th Amendment, which makes the 1st Amendment applicable to state and local government. — Edd Doerr (arlinc.org)

  9. Gov Haslam is to be commended for his courageous veto. Do state legislators think that Christianity is so weak in Tennessee that it needs to be propped up by government? — Edd Doerr,,President, Americans for Religious Liberty (arlinc.org)

  10. “According to polling, 62 percent of all Tennesseans favor making the Holy Bible the state book in order to recognize its significance from a historical, economic and cultural standpoint,” the House sponsor, Representative Jerry Sexton, said.

    Well….most TN people still seem to love slavery, rape, dashing babies against the rocks, marrying the brother’s sister if he dies and so forth…maybe they should start stoning adulterous women as well…

    It’s quite understandable they want the bible as official state book

  11. if Christians would stick to influencing others by the example of their personal conduct, their testimony would be the most powerful, especially if they let God do the rest.

    The alignment of the Christian faith with government and political power is responsible for most of the egregious behavior by the Christian church and it’s adherents throughout it’s history.

  12. it’s just further proof that the bible’s most dedicated cheerleaders (in public) haven’t the slightest idea what’s actually in it–they just know that saying “bible” gets votes.

    Jesus had something to say about this kind of hypocrisy. Try Matthew 7:21 for starters.

  13. God is not a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Satan is hands down.

  14. Hey. Everybody who isn’t from Tennessee, butt out. It’s none of your business. Go screw up your own state.
    Thank you.

  15. Could someone please tell me what part of the constitution says anything about separation of church and state? I see it says Freedom of Religion meaning that we can worship as we please but I see no mention of freedom from religion meaning state workers or schools or whatever cannot have prayer or bible etc . OF and FROM are two very different words.

  16. Bob, how would you feel if the Torah or Quran were made TN’s official state book?

  17. Amendment I:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    The words “freedom of religion” are nowhere in the Constitution. The First Amendment states the government will not “[respect] an establishment of religion…”, or endorse a religion; nor shall the government prohibit someone from exercising said religion. The intent is for the government to remain neutral when it comes to religion.

  18. It may not be the business of those from other states , but when Christians are referred to like that then it becomes my business/interest, and although I am a Christian and like the idea of a state book, I do not believe the mixing of church and state is right, no matter what state it is. I also do not think it is proper to refer to people from Tennessee in a deleterious manner, as it doesn’t have weight with the subject.

  19. Yes, it would violate both the State and Federal Constitution, Sorry to disappoint you.

  20. This is not a “congressional” act, you Derp!

  21. These religious organizations need to be sued for fraud, there is no god(s).

  22. The Bible was an intricate part of the establishment of the Constitution and our God given rights. The Torah is part of the Bible, and the Quran had no influence at all on this countries founding. Even though the Supreme Court sided with Atheists on the separation of church and state – not in the Constitution, and definitely not in the founder’s intent – this is not the establishment of a state religion, but a recognition of the importance of the role this book played in founding of the, at one-time, most free country that has ever been on earth.

  23. Exactly. This is religious extremism, plain and simple. These people would be glad to kill, murder, and attack any non-Christian as soon as they get an excuse, and making their book of superstitions a “State Book” would open the flood gates for more of their kind to rationalize attacking people who don’t believe in the same sky spirit they do, or turning a blind eye when their children act out and assault non-Christians in school. This is the first step to state sponsored terrorism from the right wing.

  24. Blob! The 14th Amendment means ALL states adopt the bill of rights in their laws. “Congress” now refers to legislation at all levels of government. Holy sh1tsnacks! You need some lessons in basic civics. That is some grade A 1gnorance on display.

  25. Then keep it at home. You have no right to shove it in anyone’s face.

  26. In what possible way is the Bible even remotely referenced in the Constitution?

    You can’t cite to a single instance where it’s alleged influence exists.

    Separation of church and state is the guiding principle of the Establishment Clause. The phrase predates the constitution by a century. Any reading of the establishment clause which does not entail separation of church and state, undermines all religious freedoms. You can’t have religious freedom with such blatant sectarian endorsement by government.

    The Bible as venerated by the state is an attack on the liberties of all whose religious belief does not reference it.

  27. You apparently don’t know the religious backgrounds of the founding fathers. Most of them were deists. Look it up and look up the Jeffersonian Bible while you’re at it,

  28. That’s the best comment I’ve read in a long time

  29. Not really! Our government was organized based on the Bible and Christian principals. The Constitution guarantees that we have freedom of Religion, not freedom from religion.

  30. Hey Nathan, no one would be shoving anything in your face. You don’t want to read the State book, don’t read it. Your right to not read it does not supersede everyone else’s right to read it.

  31. Actually, the separation of church and state was established in response to the Danbury Baptists who wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson. Look up the letters between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists. It was not the work of atheists. Jefferson recognized that the wall of separation between church and state protected the religious freedoms of all citizens.

  32. There is no such thing as separation of Church and State… Otherwise we wouldn’t swear on the ‘holy’ bible in the court of law…

  33. I’m not sure you want ot reference that version of the bible. Jefferson took out all of the supernatural stuff.

  34. Funny, for a book that was allegedly intricately involved with the bible, it is referenced nowhere in the Constitution. God and Jesus aren’t mentioned. The only references to religion at all are negative, no establishment, no religious test.

    I wonder if you’ve read the constitution?

  35. I do not swear on the bible, or any book. No atheist would. And plenty of people swear on the bible and then– what shall we call it?– LIE?

  36. The governor said, “My personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is sacred text.”

    If that’s true, then I would urge the governor to sign the bill. The trivialization of the Bible is long overdue, and I would welcome anything that shortens the time until Christianity takes its rightful place alongside Greek mythology and other defunct religions

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