A couple of weeks ago, Tennessee legislators voted to make the Bible the official state book. Their bill went against the advice of Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who called it unconstitutional, and Governor Bill Haslam.
But saying you don’t like the bill is different from taking action against it, which is why it’s a breath of fresh air to see that Haslam has indeed vetoed the bill as he suggested he would.
In his explanation letter to Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Haslam said that it was his love for the Bible that made him oppose this legislation.
In addition to the constitutional issues with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text. If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance. If we are recognizing the Bible as the sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book. Our founders recognized that when the church and state were combined, it was the church that suffered in the long run.
Not a bad way to oppose the bill without alienating your Christian base: I love you. And that’s why we have to break up.
According to The Tennessean,
Had Haslam signed the bill, Tennessee would have become the first state in the country to make the Holy Bible its official state book.
(Alabama has an official State Bible, but no official State Book.)
While there may technically be enough votes to override Haslam’s veto, legislators aren’t positive they’d get the support this time around. The bill passed the House 55-38 and the Senate 19-8, but that’s not to say everyone would vote the same way again. (To undo the veto, they would need 50 voters in the House and 17 in the Senate.)
Tennessee’s governorship has a relatively weak veto power: it only takes a simple majority in both chambers to overrule a veto.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey previously expressed skepticism that the measure could once again make its way through both the House and the Senate, given how close it came to failing to receive a majority in each chamber.
“I’m not sure the votes would be there the second time around,” Ramsey said on April 4, while discussing the potential of Haslam vetoing the bill.
Already, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has applauded the governor for his decision:
Imagine if, some day as the Muslim population grows, a legislature sought to declare the Koran a state book. Or, as the secular population grows, to declare Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion” a “state book.” It’s equally inappropriate and coercive to endorse the Christian bible. Government may not take sides on religion.
Bill Haslam not only vetoed the bill, but he issued a strong statement… affirming the Establishment Clause and explaining why the bill is unconstitutional. May I say, Governor, “Hallelujah!”
FFRF applauding the actions of a conservative Republican governor?
Even in Tennessee, it seems hell can freeze over.
(Image via Shutterstock)