A Southern Baptist lawmaker’s bill designating the Bible the official state book of Tennessee is on its way to the governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 1108, sponsored by Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, would designate “the Holy Bible” as the official state book, joining emblems such as Tennessee Cave Salamander as official state amphibian and an official state beverage of milk.
Southerland, a member of Buffalo Trail Baptist Church, sponsored a similar measure last year that lawmakers dropped after the attorney general said it would be unconstitutional.
“The Holy Bible is of great historical and cultural significance in the State of Tennessee as record of the history of Tennessee families that predates the modern vital records,” Southerland said in his floor speech. “It records things like births, marriages, and deaths, and printing the Bible is a multi-million dollar industry in this state, with many top Bible publishers’ headquarters in Nashville.”
According to the Christian Science Monitor, publishing is the leading industry in Nashville, half of it in religious publications.
Nicknamed the “buckle on the Bible Belt,” Nashville is home to Bible publisher Thomas Nelson, Gideons International, the United Methodist Publishing House and LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
If Gov. Bill Haslam signs the bill, Tennessee would become the first state in the nation to name the Bible its official book.
The ACLU urged the governor to veto the measure.
“Today Tennessee politicians have voted to reduce what is to many a sacred religious text to a political football,” said state ACLU director Hedy Weinberg. “Privileging one religion over another not only tramples on the Constitution, it marginalizes the tens of thousands of Tennesseans who choose to practice other religions or not to practice religion at all.”