Republican launches bid to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee

Maggie Baska March 25, 2021
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(Envato Elements)

Republican lawmaker Jerry Sexton is trying to get the Bible designated as the official state book of Tennessee – for the third time.

Sexton, a Republican congressman from Bean Station, introduced a house joint resolution, HJR 150, to add the Christian religious tome to the list of symbols and honours in the Tennessee Blue Book.

The term “state blue book” typically refers to a state-sponsored or state-level government almanac. This can include all manner of state symbols and honours including the official state bird, animal, flags and songs.

According to the Tennessean, this is the third attempt to make the Bible the official book of the state of Tennessee. Sexton has reportedly sponsored each effort.

In this latest attempt, Sexton said the US was founded on Christian values, and he believed the Bible was being “discriminated against” because of its religious nature.

“This country wasn’t founded on Buddhist, or Muhammad or any of those religions,” he said. “Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values.”

He added that he has been working on refining the measure for seven years to be “respectful toward everyone’s concerns”, but he felt needed to “put the Bible where I feel like that it belongs”.

On Tuesday (23 March), the resolution cleared a House committee despite constitutional concerns from lawmakers. Bo Mitchell, a Democrat congressman from Nashville, raised concerns that the First Amendment prohibits legislative attempts to “respect” or “prohibit” religious establishments or activities.

He added that he couldn’t support the bill as he lived in a culturally diverse neighbourhood where residents practise multiple religions.

“It’s kind of hard for me to be caring and tolerant of my neighbours if I’m telling them my book is better than their book and it ought to be recognised by this state,” Mitchell said.

But Republican Glen Casada argued the Bible represents a “common heritage” for the people of Tennessee. He said: “Just like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Ida B Wells and now the Bible, it’s just our common heritage, and those things should be welcomed by everyone in Tennessee.

“You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to like it, but it’s part of our common heritage.”

Sexton argued in HJR 150 that printing the Bible is a “multi-million-dollar industry” for Tennessee with “many top Bible publishers headquartered in Nashville”.

He added that “Tennessee and many other states did not keep comprehensive records of births, marriages and deaths” before the 20th century, but “families recorded their own vital records in family Bibles that were passed down through generations”. Sexton added that “these Bibles contain a history of Tennessee families that might not be found otherwise”.


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