Making The Bible Tennessee’s State Book Would Be A Slap In The Bible’s Face. | Gradient

Making the Bible Tennessee’s State Book Would Be a Slap In the Bible’s Face.


On Wednesday, the Tennessee state Senate approved a measure to make the Bible the state book by a vote of 19-8.  Governor Bill Haslam has yet to sign the bill into law, but has given some pretty strong indications that he won’t do so. Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slattery released a statement saying the bill would be a violation of the First and Third Amendments. He is absolutely correct. Executive Director of ACLU-Tennessee Hedy Weinberg released a statement saying that the bill “marginalizes the tens of thousands of Tennesseans who choose to practice other religions or not to practice religion at all.” This is also correct. There are any number of excellent reasons to veto this bill, but here’s an important one that ought to hit home with a majority of people who’d like to see it passed: it’s a slap in the Bible’s face.

The history of Official State Things began at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, in which each of the then-44 states submitted one flower for the “National Garland of Flowers.” Some genius decided that whatever flower each state sent would forever be their “official flower,” which is sort of like you ordering cheesecake for desert one time and being known as “Lil’ Cheesecake” for the rest of your life. Shortly thereafter, states began adopting official birds and trees which, fine. But then things went a little off the rails. Texas has an official state footwear (the cowboy boot.) Kansas has an official state toy (the Etch-a-Sketch.) Florida has an official state song and it is, not kidding, “Old Folks at Home.”

But when it comes to Official State Stuff, few states can top Tennessee for sheer love of the game. It has two official state flowers, two official state fish, an official state folk dance, nine(!) official state songs and–yes—an official state firearm: the Barrett M82/M107, a sniper rifle.

Its state animal is a raccoon. Its state horse is a Tennessee Walking Horse. Its state fruit is a tomato. Its state beverage is milk.

“The very founding of our nation — the very form of government that we have today — was put forth by men of faith, based on their faith, based on what they read in Holy Scripture,” said State Sen. Kerry Roberts and setting aside the sketchy historicity at work here, are we to then assume that Senator Roberts believes a book this holy should be listed alongside the state rifle and the state fish? Is he not concerned that the foundation of his religious beliefs might be slightly trivialized by this hollow symbolism?

Making the Bible Tennessee’s official state book may alienate people who are not Christians and violate the Constitution, to be sure. But it’s also a slap in the face of the Bible itself—a meaningless gesture that serves only to rub everyone else’s religion in the mud, and does nothing to uphold the actual teachings of the Bible or the law of the Constitution itself. Christians, of all people, should believe that the Bible deserves better.

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