Tennessee bill to make the Holy Bible the “state book” passes one branch of the legislature

April 15, 2015 • 4:00 pm

One week ago I noted that the Tennessee legislature was considering a bill to make the Bible the Official State Book. Here’s that bill:


It’s sheer lunacy, of course, and unconstitutional to boot. But that’s never stopped Republicans before. And today, according to The Tennesseean site, the bill sailed through one branch of the legislature:

The Holy Bible is the official book of Tennessee in the view of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Despite questions of constitutionality, lawmakers beat back an attempt to make Andrew Jackson’s Bible the official book and voted 55-38 in favor of Rep. Jerry Sexton’s original bill.

“History’s going to tell us where we stand on this. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to have the side that I’m on,” said Sexton, R-Bean Station, after the vote.

“It may be kind to me in the future and it may not be kind, and that’s OK. I made a decision for today and I feel good about it.”

Although a GOP-led effort, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, was one of 20 Republicans to vote against the measure. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and four Republicans abstained. Only six Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

Shame on those six Democrats! If you’re a Tennessean, find them and vote them out!

While the bill is also predicted to pass the Senate, bringing it to the Governor to sign into law, The Tennessean reports that Governor Bill Haslam has “concerns.” And well he should, for this is a sure ACLU or FFRF lawsuit for the state if the bill passes, and it will almost surely be declared unconstitutional, saddling the state with enormous court costs.

The bill is opposed by one Republican in the Senate—the majority leader, but look at his grounds for opposition (my emphasis)!:

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris opposed the bill in committee, and he hopes the bill doesn’t pass when it’s considered by the Senate.

I sure hope it won’t pass. I think it’ll be a dark day for Tennessee if it does,” Norris said.

“All I know is that I hear Satan snickering. He loves this kind of mischief. You just dumb the good book down far enough to make it whatever it takes to make it a state symbol, and you’re own your way to where he wants you.”

Seriously, are these people adults? In the future, I think, people will look back on this madness with the same feelings we have now when thinking about the torture and burning of witches in the Middle Ages.  How could they do such stuff?

Reader Eliott, who sent me this link, noted:

I guess the one silver lining to this is any time they waste on this obviously unconstitutional bill is time that can’t be spent passing abortion restrictions.

I think he’s underestimating the ability of Republicans to dismantle the Constitution in many ways simultaneously. They make more mischief than Satan!

33 thoughts on “Tennessee bill to make the Holy Bible the “state book” passes one branch of the legislature

    1. Of course they do. That’s why these people are trying to pass such bills – they’re pandering to the religious majority, to hell with the constitution.

  1. This is quite scary. People who are in charge of a state’s government not only believe in all types of supernatural nonsense, but think it’s appropriate to force that belief on others who don’t share it. And the speaker, who imagines the devil “snickering”? He surely needs psychiatric help. I can’t get over that he is confident enough to make such a statement publicly – it’s simply bizarre. I do know that if it happened in NZ, he would be encouraged to take “stress leave”.

    1. I found Norris’ logic appallingly amazing: “That book is too HOLY to be made a mere official “state book”.” I wonder how many of the legislators ever read it, cover to cover?

    2. I found Norris’ logic appallingly amazing: “Why, that book’s too HOLY to be made a mere “official state book!” I wonder how many of the legislators ever read the whole thing….

  2. I think he’s underestimating the ability of Republicans to dismantle the Constitution in many ways simultaneously. They make more mischief than Satan!

    Division by zero error….


  3. This was predictable. Also, the state senate passed a 48-hour waiting period for abortions today.

    The item the legislature is refusing to consider or debate is Insure Tennessee, a state plan that would provide health care for 240,000 residents. It would be almost entirely paid for with federal money, and the Tenn. hospital association has volunteered to cover the rest, but republicans refuse to consider any plan that resembles Obamacare in the least.

    So these are the priorities in the Volunteer State.

    To Governor Haslam’s credit, he has been pushing for the health care plan. Also, The Tennessean has been giving it lots of coverage and supporting it through repeated editorials. They are about to obtain details of the state health plan that covers legislators, and will publish that to show what hypocrites they are.

  4. There is also that town down in Alabama — the city council past a local ordnance or law that made g*d the boss or in charge of the town.

    Once they hear about this bible thing, they will surely want that as well. And some people think there is hope for this country.

  5. ““History’s going to tell us where we stand on this.”

    History will no doubt do its speaking through a federal district court. Any lawyer who stands up and tries to present a straight-faced argument in favor of this bill is in for a rough ride.

    The comment by Rep. Sexton (R-Bellevue Psych Ward) that “I made a decision for today and I feel good about it,” says a lot about the mindset of believers.

    1. Ah heerd tell of a senior at my East Tennessee high school, on his senior trip to NYC/DC/Phila. five years after me, ululating in the presence of NYC residents, “We’re from GOOOOOOOODDD’s country!”

      Tennessee folks think they’re the equal of Texas folks.

  6. It’s hard to tell whether the U.S. is moving forward or backwards when it comes to promoting humanist values and scientific reasoning. After all, we have moved quite a bit forward since the Scopes trial of nearly 90 years ago now and the elimination of Jim Crow laws and mandatory, teacher-led prayers in public schools. But all too often something like this comes along, trying to drag us back to a dark age of bigotry and ignorance.

    1. Bigotry and ignorance are not a result of religion. People who are bigoted and ignorant use religion as an excuse to demean and devalue others.

  7. I don’t suppose anyone bothered to ask them which bible they mean. The KJV? One of the revised versions? The Catholic one? The original texts?

    1. Isn’t government supposed to be all about compromise?

      In that spirit let them have their bible as the official state book not just in Tennessee but in all states of the union.

      The Jefferson Bible, that is.

  8. Seriously, are these people adults?

    I think Sam Harris has said it best: speech and thought like this samongst our elected officials should be considered an emergency.

  9. “All I know is that I hear Satan snickering. He loves this kind of mischief. You just dumb the good book down far enough to make it whatever it takes to make it a state symbol”

    The Bible says rabbits chew their cud; that the universe was created in six days; that the good guy kills millions and the bad guy only kills seven; that all the animals were killed in a plague, just before God’s chosen people took all the animals with them; that if you rape a woman, you owe her father fifty shekels.

    I just can’t figure it out… how is it possible to get any dumber than that?

    1. Yep, “I hear Satan snickering” — that’s an elected Representative’s verbatim expression of carefully considered reasoning behind his decision to support (or reject) legislation… all I can say is it’s a powerful validation for not electing judges too!

  10. > In the future, I think, people will look back on this madness with the same feelings we have now when thinking about the torture and burning of witches in the Middle Ages. How could they do such stuff?

    It surely feels like this for an European.

    1. How does it feel, “for an European”, all those political parties proudly and prominently displaying the name “Christian”; All those official state religions; All the subsidies churches receive from their governments – the “church tax” collected by a certain government on behalf of a certain church – history’s longest running crime syndicate- headquartered in Rome?

      And most nauseating of all, the enabling by European governments of that medieval plague -Islam- to vandalize and putrefy their magnificent and hard-fought civilizations from the inside with Sharia, honor killings, massive increase of rape, FGM, not to mention terrorism?

      1. Why, awful, of course! However, “All I know is that I hear Satan snickering. He loves this kind of mischief.” is most assuredly not what you’ll hear from any high ranking representative of one of the major parties in my country (Germany. I’m less, but still pretty sure it’s the same in other European nations – maybe other readers can chime in.)

        If what I said sounded like glib anti-Americanism to you, I’m sorry. But firstly, it was our host who was making the comparison to “torture and burning of witches” and I was responding in the same slightly tongue-in-cheek way; secondly, why do you assume I meant American society as a whole, instead of the Republican party? I don’t think I’m overstating my case if I say, yes, for the average European they look pretty middle-agey indeed.

        1. As crude as the comic-book cretinosity of the U.S. may appear to Europeans, the German variety, for all it’s culturedness couched in lefty/greeny masochistic multiculti post-modern culturally relativistic self-hate, is all the more sinister.

          Behold your chancellor informing the world that “Islam belongs to Germany”. Which part of Islam? Its homophobia, misogyny, pedophilia or tendency to engage in bloodbaths?

          Witch hunts is what the German media subjected Sarrazin to when his book came out. And what the German media is subjecting Pegida to right now complete with shutting down reader’s comments on articles on the topic.

          The political elite in Germany has been at least as much if not more damaging in enabling obscurantism than those in the US.

  11. This may seem far too rational a proposal for these theocrats but surely it might make them pause before they waste their own time on this.

    The FFRF must by now have a database, say, covering the last 15 years. With examples of theocratic Bills, in which State Legislature or forum, type of Bill, a prediction of the likelihood of it being declared unconstitutional (very high indeed) and the cost of sanctions to the taxpayer for that event.

    Match that up to a sympathetic representative in each State Legislature or forum: bingo, you have a ready-made speech at the discussion stage fore-warning the Goddists of how much they can expect to render unto Caesar. x

  12. Maybe it is a cultural thing, we sure don’t put as much bureaucratic efforts through legislation. But I have a problem seeing how proposals that are dubious re their lawfulness such as here (clashing with basic Constitution) are put and, worse, considered by “legislature”. Are there no ethical and/or work expertise rules against these inanities?

    As far as I know, which is very little not being a scholar of jurisprudence, laws has to consider previous work and its stated intent which are laid out in the preface.

  13. Politics is not about right and wrong. It is about acquiring and maintaining power. The legislators that are forwarding this bill are making a calculated move to appease their hyperreligious base and bolster their bona fides of conservativism (as they define it) and probably could care less if this bill is made law. If it fails to meet constitutional muster, it is because of them ‘damn college educated liberal socialist justices’ so they get one more talking point next election. On the other hand if it is not challenged or for some reason is determined to be allowable in Federal Court, the supporting legisltator now has a HUGE feather in his/her cap. Win-win perhaps from their foxhole…..

  14. No need to wait for the future. Everyone else in the Western world already thinks that way of the USA right now.

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