Politics

Legislation To Make Bible Official Book Of Tennessee Rejected

| by Kathryn Schroeder
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Legislation to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee has been rejected by the state Senate.

"This isn't the time or place now in the full Senate floor to delve into that. We really need to look into it in committee," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris before the vote.

The Senate voted against the bill 22-9 just one day after the House passed it 55-38, reports The Tennessean.

Republican leadership has strong opposition to the bill, as does Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

Slatery said recently he thinks the bill violates state and federal constitutions.

Norris led the effort to not pass the bill and asked that it be sent back to the Senate Judiciary Committee to review the possibility that it violates state and federal constitutions.

"I sure hope it won't pass. I think it'll be a dark day for Tennessee if it does," Norris said. "All I know is that I hear Satan snickering. He loves this kind of mischief. You just dumb the good book down far enough to make it whatever it takes to make it a state symbol, and you're on your way to where he wants you."

The Senate apparently agreed with Norris and the bill has been killed for at least the year.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Steve Southerland, and other supporters believe the bill highlights the economic and historical impact of the Bible in Tennessee.

"The Bible has great historical and cultural significance in the state of Tennessee," Southerland said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Southerland plans to reintroduce the bill next year.

"Some of my co-sponsors had some concerns about ... the constitutional problem on it, but then I picked up three votes that weren't co-sponsors. So we'll see next year," Southerland said.

Had the bill passed in the Senate, Norris planned to introduce three amendments. Two of the amendments would make the definition of the Bible include other religious texts. The third would have the state pursue hiring attorneys to defend any lawsuits filed over the law.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is against the bill and does not think the state should be spending money to defend a “symbolic piece of legislation.”

"I am a Christian, but I am also a constitutionalist and a conservative. It would be fiscally irresponsible to put the state in a position to have to spend tax dollars defending a largely symbolic piece of legislation," Ramsey said. “We don't need to put the Bible beside salamanders, tulip poplars and 'Rocky Top' in the Tennessee Blue Book to appreciate its importance to our state."

This is not the first occurrence where a state tried to make the Bible their official book. An attempt was made in Louisiana last year that quickly failed, and a similar bill was introduced earlier this year in Mississippi but failed to pass the committee.

Mississippi Democratic Rep. Tim Miles said he plans to reintroduce the bill next session.

"We feel like if it would have hit the floor, we had the votes,” Miles told TIME.

Sources: The Tennessean, TIME / Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons