Sunday, April 10, 2016

Will The Bible Be Endorsed As An Official State Book?

Tennessee may become the first state in America to make the Bible its official book.  This, by any measure, is a terrible idea, but a fascinating one.

I didn’t know states had official books the way they name an official bird, tree, or food.  Most states don’t have an official book, but a few have official poems “My Old Kentucky Home” is Kentucky’s state poem.  “I am Florida” is Florida’s state poem.  Louisiana has two state poems.  Massachusetts has an official state children’s book, Make Way for Ducklings.  But now Tennessee is about to make the Holy Bible its official book.

Tennessee has many official state symbols, including two state flowers, two state birds, state fish, state fruit, state insects, and even a state reptile, state rifle and a state rock.

The Bible-printing industry is huge, with Bible publishers headquartered in Nashville that include Thomas Nelson, Gideons International, and United Methodist Publishing House.

There’s a chance the governor could veto the bill, which was approved by the state Senate, 19-8.

Governor Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery have questioned aloud whether the bill is constitutional.  The bill also doesn’t specify which version of the Bible is to be coronated.

In a report issued by the Attorney General a year ago, he wrote:

“The same result obtains here.  Like the Ten Commandments, the Bible is undeniably a sacred text in the Christian faith.  Legislative designation of The Holy Bible as the official book – as an official symbol – of the State of Tennessee, when viewed objectively, must presumptively be understood as an endorsement of religion and of a particular religion.  Irrespective of the legislation’s actual purpose, common sense compels the conclusion that designation of the Bible as the official state book in practice and effect conveys a message of endorsement. Such an endorsement violates the Establishment Clause of the federal Constitution, regardless of whether the message of endorsement is intentional or unintentional and regardless of whether the message is conveyed in reality or only in the public perception.

“Tennessee’s constitutional requirement “that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship” is substantially stronger than the federal protection against government endorsement of religion or of a religion.  Thus, designating the Holy Bible as the official state book would violate Article I, §, 3, of the Tennessee Constitution even more definitively than it would violate the federal Establishment Clause."

Tennessee says it wants to recognize the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state.

According to a report by NPR, “Back in 2005, the historical aspect of a religious display was one of the criteria the U.S. Supreme Court used to determine by a 5-4 vote that the state of Tennessee could keep a monument to the Ten Commandments at its State Capitol in Austin.”

Louisiana and Mississippi each failed last year in attempts to do the same as Tennessee.

I think the legislation would turn us into the Middle East, where the Koran is an official text of the Muslim nations.  America prides itself of not mixing religion with the government, of separating church and state. To endorse the religious text of one religion would compromise the nation.

I’m all for naming state books, but until our states stop separating church and state, we cannot have government sanctioning books that explicitly promote a singular religion.  We are the United States – diverse, unique, and free to worship as we please, and free not to worship at all. Our official state books must reflect that.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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