A push to designate the Bible the official state book of Tennessee has returned to the state legislature.
This is the third time Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, has pushed this measure (HJR0150), despite some concerns of its constitutionality from other lawmakers.
In the past, the bill faced criticism from former Gov. Bill Haslam. In 2016, Haslam vetoed the bill, arguing the measure “trivializes the Bible.”
The resolution faces similar opposition today. At a committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, spoke against the measure, troubled by the mixing of church and state. Travis has voted against the resolution for three years in a row.
“The Bible is the greatest book that’s ever been written. There’s no doubt about that in my heart,” said Travis. “I just feel like my Bible, my personal Bible that I have, should be so far away from government.”
But many Republican lawmakers granted the resolution their support.
Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, commended the resolution for emphasizing the Bible’s historical and cultural significance to Tennessee.
“Just like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Ida B. Wells and now the Bible, it’s just our common heritage,” said Casada. “And those things should be welcomed by everyone in Tennessee.”
Sexton said he’s been working on refining this measure for seven years. Over those years, it has evolved from a bill into a resolution that dictates the Bible must be listed as the official state book in the “Tennessee Blue Book.”
The resolution will recognize the Bible for its importance to the state, not violate the right of freedom of religion, he said.
“What I’m trying to do is be respectful of everyone’s concerns, and just put the Bible where I feel like it belongs,” said Sexton.