Tennessee’s State Book

So, yesterday the Tennessee Senate voted 19-8 to make the “Holy Bible” the Tennessee State Book.

My brain is still staggering back into town from my daughter’s Spring Break, but let’s see how many things I can find wrong with this:

  1. It’s a clear violation of Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution. If this isn’t the government endorsing a religion, I don’t know what is.
  2. It’s a violation of Article I, Section 3, of the Tennessee Constitution. It states that”no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.” This bill clearly gives preference to Christian religious establishments over others.
  3. Which Holy Bible? The bill is really short, and it doesn’t make any attempt to designate which version is the state book.
  4. Is this really important enough for our legislators to spend time and money on? Really? This is at the top of their priorities list?
  5. Some legislators voted against the bill because they feel it demeans the Bible by giving it a secular status.
  6. Is this the right choice? I did a bit of research on this last night to find books written in and about Tennessee to see if there was a more fitting option. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road certainly fits, but it is a bit dark. Personally, if I were going to waste time on such an effort, I’d be more inclined to go with making one of Tennessee Williams’ works the State Play instead.
  7. This is a concrete example of why I am running for Congress: Divisiveness.

I have this feeling that many Tennesseans–and many Americans–feel that non-Christians aren’t really Americans at all. Promoting Christianity over other religious–or non-religious–beliefs just emphasizes this. I was pleased to see a news story yesterday that a Sikh U.S. Army Captain–with a Bronze Star from Afghanistan–is now permitted to wear a turban covering his long hair and a beard, provided that it doesn’t interfere with his duties. According to Gallup, the U.S. is now 72% Christian. According to Pew Research, Tennessee is 81% Christian. We have a significant non-Christian minority in this state, and they deserve better than to be marginalized by our lawmakers.

By designating the Holy Bible as the Tennessee State Book, we tell people who don’t subscribe to the dominant belief system that their beliefs aren’t important, or at least aren’t as important, as the beliefs of Christians.

We need our politicians to stop doing something like this. We need them to stop dividing people by religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and identity, and economic status. We need them to start working to do things that benefit all Americans and all Tennesseans. If you want people to feel part of the system, then make them part of the system. Don’t push them aside because they don’t look, think, and act exactly like you do.


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