Tennessee lawmakers have made the Bible the state’s official book. But a debate is raging over their vote.
The state Senate voted 19-8 in favor of the bill despite arguments by the state attorney general that the measure conflicts with a provision in the Tennessee Constitution.
Other opponents argued the Bible would be trivialized by being placed alongside other state symbols such as the official tree, flower, rock or amphibian.
Senator Jeff Yarbro questioned the legislation saying, “I don’t think that’s why we read the Bible, I don’t think that’s why we send our kids to vacation Bible school,” “To those of us who grew up in this faith, it is so much more.”
But both chambers of the Legislature still voted to send the bill to the desk of Governor Bill Haslam. He opposes the measure but hasn’t said whether he’ll issue a veto.
Senator Steve Southerland argued that his bill is aimed at recognizing the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state, rather than as government endorsement of religion.
Naturally, the ACLU promises to challenge the Bible as the official Tennessee book should the proposal become law. That’s the same ACLU that last month declared that it will no longer support the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act or state analogues.
But, Southerland said an outside legal organization has offered to defend any lawsuits challenging the bill for free.