Tennessee legislators, sticking a big middle finger in the face of their non-Christian constituents, have voted to make the Bible the official state book.
The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Steve Southerland, who said he was following public opinion, Constitution be damned.
Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in the past that such a bill would be unconstitutional, but that didn’t sway the Senate, which voted 19-8 to pass it.
Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, has voiced his opposition to the bill. Opposition, however, isn’t the same thing as a veto. It’s up to him to make things official.
Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, called on Haslam to veto the Bible bill. She called it a “thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions clearly violates both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.”
Southerland said that an outside legal organization has offered to defend any lawsuits challenging the bill for free.
“So I ask you, what do we have to lose?” he said.
Dignity? Respect? The legal fees you’ll owe the other side if you lose a legal challenge? The opportunity to avoid comparisons to Alabama, the only other state with an official Bible?
Haslam would be smart to veto the bill. He could even do it in a politically savvy way by saying he loves the Bible, and the Bible is his favorite book, but he doesn’t believe a religious text that has no Tennessee-specific connection should represent a state with so many literary masters who have roots there, like Alex Haley and Robert Penn Warren.
Even I know that’s a pipe dream. He’ll sign the bill just like any Republican governor would sign a bill lauding the Bible.
By the way, in a move that just confirms the stereotype of conservatives clinging to God and guns, this legislation comes in the same session that saw the .50-caliber sniper gun made the official state rifle.
What’s next? Naming the official state gravy?
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Cameron for the link)