My piece this week at Religion News Service examines the recent attempt by the Tennessee legislature to make the Bible the “official state book.” Here is a taste:
(RNS) The state amphibian of Tennessee is the cave salamander. The state sports fish is the smallmouth bass. The state insects are the firefly and lady beetle. The state dance is the square dance. The state reptile is the eastern box turtle.
And if Tennessee lawmakers get their way, the state book will be the Bible.
As they sing on Sesame Street: “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong.”
On Tuesday (April 5), the Tennessee Senate approved House Bill 0615, a bill that “designates the Holy Bible as the official state book.” If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this bill into law, Tennessee will be the first state in the Union to pass such a resolution. A similar attempt in Louisiana failed in 2014. In Alabama, the King James Bible that was used to swear in Jefferson Davis as the president of the Confederate States of America in 1861 has been designated the “State Bible.”
Defenders of the bill claim they want to make the Bible the official state book because it has been so prevalent in the history of Tennessee. One proposed amendment to the bill argued the Bible is important because families recorded their vital records (births, deaths, marriages) in Bibles, Bible publishers such as Thomas Nelson and Gideons International are based in Tennessee, and two state songs, “My Tennessee” and “Tennessee,” reference God.
Read the entire piece here.