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Legislators from the state of Tennessee caused controversy Tuesday over the text they chose as their official state book.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Steve Southerland, to make the Bible Tennessee’s official state book passed with a vote of 19 – 8 after 30 minutes of deliberation and now awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessean reported.
Of those who opposed the measure, two different arguments were made: There are those that believe making it the state book violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution while others believe it dilutes the religious significance of the book.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican, said the argument made by Southerland that the Bible is a history book was wrong.
“This is much more than a history book,” he said before saying he believed Haslam should veto it, according to the Tennesseean.
The American Civil Liberties union believes the move promotes Christianity above all other religions.
“Lawmakers’ thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions clearly violates both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions, as our state attorney general has already pointed out,” ACLU-Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said.
“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,” she added, echoing Ramsey’s contention that the bill should be vetoed.
Republican Sen. Kerry Roberts argued that the Bible did have historical significance.
“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,” he said.
“This book has done more to bring us to where we are today than any other book in the history of mankind,” Roberts added.
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