The Tennessee Senate is now set to take up debate over a resolution that would recognize the Bible as the official state book. The measure passed the state House of Representatives Monday night.
State lawmakers have debated making the Bible Tennessee’s official book two other times in recent years, with opposition coming from Republicans and Democrats. Many opponents, such as Democratic Rep. Johnny Shaw, a pastor from Bolivar, say the effort reflects poorly on Tennesseans, especially Christian ones.
“I just think it’s best that we live a good life, live a wonderful life. And make sure that every Tennessean see us living a godly life, but not trying to shove anything down their throats,” he says.
The measure, House Joint Resolution 150, has been pushed by another minister, Republican Jerry Sexton of Bean Station. He says he wants to lift up the scripture but is not trying to force it on anybody. He also emphasizes the economic impact of Bible publishing in Tennessee.
The so-called “Bible bill” did pass the legislature in 2016 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Bill Haslam. The state attorney general’s office said at the time that the measure violates both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions.
An effort to restart the debate last year sputtered out when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
WPLN’s Alexis Marshall and Nina Cardona contributed to this report.