Tennessee lawmakers and politicians are attempting to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee.
The bill, HB615, describes itself as, “An act to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 4, Chapter 1, relative to designating the Holy Bible as the official state book.” Some feel this would be a direct violation of the Tennessee Constitution, which states that “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."
"It's got 19 co-signers on it; it takes 17 people to vote for the bill," said Republican Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown on April 9, feeling strongly the bill may pass.
A similar bill failed to pass in Mississippi earlier this year, and another one was withdrawn before going to vote in Louisiana last year.
"The Bible is my official book, it is," Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said. Ramsey added, "It shouldn't be put in the Blue Book with 'Rocky Top,' salamanders and tulip poplars. I'm sorry; it just shouldn't," referring to other symbols associated with the state.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris had a similar view as Ramsey, saying this decision "belittles the most holy book that's ever been written."
“Naming the Bible as the 'state book' of Tennessee is a direct and unconstitutional attempt by Christian lawmakers, in conspicuous abuse of their legal authority, to insert their personal religious views into the laws of Tennessee and onto the citizens of Tennessee," added Danielle Muscato, communications manager of American Atheists.
David Fowler, former senator and the current president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, believes "there is no book that has played the role in the history of Tennessee equal to that of the Bible."
He added that the Bible has had more “practical use, more historical use and more economic impact in our state than any other book."
"The Bible should not be used as a political football," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.
"The First Amendment makes it clear that government cannot favor one religion over another and politicians should not try to influence what people believe by turning their personal religious viewpoints into law."
ABC News reports the bill may reach the state's House and Senate as early as next week.
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