[UPDATE 4/20: The Tennessee House failed on a 43-50 vote to override Governor Haslam’s veto. The Tennessean reports.]
[UPDATE 4/14: Governor Haslam has vetoed the bill making the Bible the official state book. He cited both its questionable constitutionality, and his view that the bill “trivializes” the Bible, which he considers sacred. In Tennessee, it takes only a simple majority to overcome a veto.]
Last year, the Tennessee legislature flirted with a bill that would name the Holy Bible as the official state book. That’s right, the state would, under this law, pick one particular sacred text to lift up as the state book. This idea was roundly met with criticism, including from the BJC. Associate General Counsel Jennifer Hawks described the attempt as a “bad idea,” and essentially a “back-door endorsement of Christianity as the state’s official religion.” Tennessee’s Attorney General issued his opinion that the proposed law would be unconstitutional. Ultimately, the bill died in committee, a wise outcome for such an unwise proposal.
But that was last year. This year, the Tennessee legislature has pushed this regrettable idea even harder. And earlier today, the State Senate approved the measure on a 19-8 vote, sending it to the Governor, for his signature or veto.
Previously, Governor Haslam has declared concerns about the constitutionality of the bill. Hopefully, those concerns remain front and center in his decision about what to do next.