Sunday, February 22, 2015

Should the Bible become the official state book of Tennessee?

You can read the full article here.

Representative Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) proposed the HB 615 bill to the Tennessee code that states, “The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book”. In an online poll, 81% of Tennesseans opposed the amendment to make the Bible the state book. Rob Boston, a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, spoke out about this choice and thought that a secular book would be a more appropriate choice. He wrote, “Going with the Bible slights the many authors who are either from these states or who have written about them in significant ways (or both)”. He thought that using the Bible as the state book was singling out a specific religion and making everyone else "second-class citizens."

In January, three Mississippi representatives also proposed bills to make the Bible the state book of Mississippi.  Representative Tom Miles (D-Forest) thought that “The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people, they could read in there about love and compassion”. People who opposed this bill argued that declaring the Bible as the state book was making the statement that Christians were trying to dictate their religion to non-Christian members of their communities.This bill has also been proposed in Louisiana.

The importance of the Bible in American history has been debated throughout America's existence. President Ronald Reagan made 1983 the national "Year of the Bible" which shows that Americans do believe that Bible has shaped American lives. Even if the Bible has been an important part of America's history, I believe it is unconstitutional to allow state governments the ability to declare the Bible as a state book.

State books are meant to represent qualities that are special and specific to each state in America. I think that declaring the Bible as the state book violates the Establishment clause of the First Amendment because the state is declaring that the Bible encapsulates the best parts of its communities. If Tennessee were to pass this bill then it would be telling everyone in America that Tennessee is a Christian state and the government is trying to help Tennesseans pass laws that help protect their Christian lifestyle.

Later in the article Clark mentions the resolution Representative James VanHuss (R-Jonesborough) is trying to pass in Tennessee. VanHuss is trying to add a resolution to the state constitution that says, “We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior”. This is another example of how, in my opinion, the representatives in Tennessee are attempting to destroy the American values that are protected by the Constitution.

Representatives Sexton (R-Bean Station) and VanHuss(R-Jonesborough) are attempting to break the Establishment clause of the Constitution because they are trying to help their state government become religious and maintain Christian values. Our country was founded on the belief of separation of church and state and if bills, like the HB 615 bill in Tennessee, get passed our country will start dividing and the religious majority will hold all of the power in our government.

Do you think that the states should be allowed to declare the Bible as their state book? Should state governments be allowed to amend statements that are strictly religious to their own constitutions?


Anonymous said...

No, Tennessee should not be allowed to have the Holy Bible as their state book. This would be a clear violation of the Establishment Clause because this would be an advancement of Christianity in the state. Although some, including Justice Stewart, might argue that the clause was meant for the national government and that states have the right to establish a religion I believe it is too big of a population to allow something like this. The majority of Tennessee might be Christian, however, it is not officially a Christian state. Different religions exist in Tennessee which is why the Bible should not be allowed to be the state book.

65 year oold Christian said...

Whatever happened to separation of church and state? Are churches ready to be taxed? Will this be the new source of income for TN?

Mackenzie Y said...

I think that declaring the Bible as the state book of Tennessee would absolutely constitute as an establishment of religion. Though the bible does shape many American’s lives, I do not think that it is necessary to make it the official book of a state due to the separation of church and state, which also shapes American lives. Those of the minority religions residing in Tennessee would surely not want religious writings that they do not believe in to be the state book which represents qualities specific to their state. This would be a clear example of advancing religion over non-religion.

Emily C. said...

I agree with the previous commenters that the declaration of the Bible as Tennessee's state book would be a clear Establishment of Religion. After the 14th Amendment was ratified, which incorporated all of the Bill of Rights to the states' as well as the federal government, Justice Stewart's argument is no longer relevant. This is clear advancement of religion, and serves little secular purpose. Despite the fact that the third test of the Lemon principle is ambiguous, I do not think "excessive entanglement" is unclear in this instance--declaring the Bible as Tennessee's state book clearly violates all three pieces of the Lemon Test.

Abby Copp said...

If this bill does not scream "I violate the Establishment Clause and create excessive entanglement," I have no clue what does. Obviously it would be wrong and unconstitutional for Tennessee to adopt the Bible, or any other religious book for that matter, to be its state book. As the other commentators have mentioned above, those of a minority religion or non-religious people in general would be compelled to be identified by beliefs they do not have. Speaking of majority versus the minority, another important point of this argument is that according to our country's democratic values, laws should be passed that represent the will of the majority, which is clearly not what is taking place here.