The Tennessee state House of Representatives passed a resolution 59-22 making the Bible the state book on Monday.
HJR 0752, sponsored by State Representative Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station), “designates the Bible as the official State book.”
This is the third time an attempt has been made in the Tennessee General Assembly to list the Bible as the official state book. Former Governor Bill Haslam (R) previously vetoed a similar resolution in 2016, citing constitutional issues.
The resolution states that legislatures recognizing the Bible is a longstanding practice, saying:
WHEREAS, the practice of a legislative body approving and recommending the Bible to the American people dates back to September 12, 1782, when Congress passed a resolution approving and recommending the Aitken Bible, which was the first English Bible printed in North America, to “all inhabitants of the United States”; and
WHEREAS, this resolution, as documented in the Journals of Congress, has never been repealed; and WHEREAS, the Holy Bible has great historical and cultural significance in the State of Tennessee as a record of the history of Tennessee families that predates some modern vital statistical records.
When the resolution came up for House floor consideration, there was some spirited debate.
Sexton promoted his resolution, saying the Bible “forms the basis for our Western philosophy.”
State Representative Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar), himself a minister, rose in opposition to the resolution, ironically quoting the Bible as his basis for opposition. Shaw quoted Isaiah 55:8-9, which says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Shaw continued, “The church is a living organism. There’s nothing or no other institution on earth that can meet the standards of the Lord Jesus’ church. To make the Bible a state book – I’m trying to find a good word – is false professions. For us to say that we live according to the Bible – this Bible is for every individual to read but is nobody’s book but God’s. For that reason, Mr. Sponsor, I cannot vote to make this Bible a state book.”
The actionable section of the resolution reads in part:
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that we hereby designate the Holy Bible as the official State book. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of State is directed to list the Holy Bible as the official State book in the Tennessee Blue Book.
In addition to Haslam’s 2016 veto, similar resolutions have been stymied in the state Senate, as was the case with last year’s version.
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