On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives voted 55-38 in favor of a bill that would make the Bible the official state book. The bill will now make its way to the state Senate where it will be voted on on Thursday.
Despite it's passage, the bill received ample criticism. Reuters reports:
“The controversy will not end in this chamber,” Representative Martin Daniel said. “If we pass this, we’re going to be ridiculed.”
Representative Marc Gravitt said the attorney general’s legal opinion made it clear Tennessee could spend millions of dollars in a losing effort to defend the measure if it becomes law.
Other representatives said recognizing the Bible as the state book and putting it alongside the official state tree, song or dance would trivialize it.
Representative Patsy Hazlewood, a Republican, said “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Pilgrim’s Progress” are books and calling the Bible a book is in itself wrong.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is staunchly opposed to the bill: "I sure hope it won't pass. I think it'll be a dark day for Tennessee if it does," he 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."
Of course, none of these objections mentions the unconstitutionality of such a bill, which State Attorney General Herbert Slatery emphasized.
"The Bible is undeniably a sacred text of the Christian faith," he wrote in a legal opinion on Monday. "Legislative designation of The Holy Bible as the official book... must presumptively be understood as an endorsement of religion."
Mississippi and Louisiana have seen similar bills, although they failed in both states.