Tennessee lawmakers advance bill to make Bible state's official book

A bill to make the Bible Tennessee’s official state book will proceed to the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives after a committee on Tuesday recommended the legislation for passage.

In the bill, Republican state Rep. Jerry Sexton argues that the Bible should be the state’s official book to, among other reasons, reflect family heritage and underscore the multimillion-dollar industry that is Bible printing in Tennessee.

“The Holy Bible has great historical and cultural significance in the State of Tennessee as a record of the history of Tennessee families that predates some modern vital statistical records,” the legislation reads.

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“Printing the Bible is a multimillion-dollar industry for the State with many top Bible publishers headquartered in Nashville, including Thomas Nelson, Gideons International, and United Methodist Publishing House,” it reads.

According to The Tennessean, Sexton said that the Bible should not be “discriminated against” because of its religious nature and that the United States was established on Christian values.

"This country wasn't founded on Buddhist, or Muhammad or any of those religions," Sexton said, according to the news outlet. "Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values."

"What I'm trying to do is to be respectful toward everyone's concerns, and just put the Bible where I feel like that it belongs," Sexton added.

Many Republican lawmakers on the committee supported Sexton’s bill, The Tennessean noted, while some Democrats were opposed. One Republican reportedly called the Bible a “common heritage” in his support for the resolution, while one Democrat questioned the constitutionality of the state endorsing a religion.

This is the third attempt in the Tennessee legislature to designate the Bible as the official state book. In 2016, then-Gov. Bill Haslam (R) rejected a bill with the same goal, saying it “trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text.”

Haslam pointed to a 2015 opinion issued by state Attorney General Herbert Slatery (R) that said the bill would violate the state and federal constitutions, The Tennessean reported.