Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) submitted a bill in the Tennessee General Assembly in a renewed effort to name the Bible the official state book.
Sponsored by Sexton, HB 2778 seeks to designate “the Holy Bible as the official state book” of Tennessee. Back in 2015, Sexton emphasized that his original bill (HB 615) would recognize the role the Bible has played in the state’s history.
“The Bible has certainly had a pivotal role in the history of our state as well as our nation,” he told the Baptist Press. “The Bible also plays a significantly important role in our state today with several companies in Nashville being responsible for publishing more Bibles than possibly any other city in the world.”
In 2016, then-Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed the bill, claiming it violated both the state and federal Constitution. “If we are recognizing the Bible as a 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.”
He also added that he believes the bill “trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text,” according to a letter he sent to former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Beth Harwell.
Other critics of the legislation questioned whether it was a good idea to place the Bible alongside other state symbols such as an official rock, tree, or animal. Attorney General Herbert Slattery also believed the bill violated the Constitution.
Since Gov. Bill Haslam was ineligible to run for re-election after serving two terms, he was replaced by Gov. Bill Lee. Lee, who is known for openly talking about his faith during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, said he would not comment on non-administrative bills until they were on his desk.
Although Lee hasn’t given any indications as to how he will approach the new proposal, he did state at the end of the 2019 legislative session that he would not veto any bill that was approved by lawmakers, according to local news outlet The Tennessean.