NASHVILLE -- Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said today he opposes a fast-moving bill making the "Holy Bible" the official book of Tennessee.
Ramsey told reporters shortly after the measure passed in the Senate State and Local Government Committee -- with seven members voting aye and two abstaining -- that he believes doing doing so "belittles the most holy book ever written."
"It shouldn't be," Ramsey said. "I'm just adamantly opposed to that. The Bible is my official book. It is. It shouldn't be put in the Blue Book with Rocky Top, cave salamanders and the tulip poplar" tree.
The Blue Book is the official state Book. By various past actions of state lawmakers have designated Rocky Top, a bluegrass murder ballad about moonshining, one of the state's officials songs and the Tennessee Cave Salamander, the state's official amphibian. The tulip popular is the state tree.
Also on Tuesday, the bill cleared the House State Government Subcommittee. Lawmakers have requested a formal legal opinion from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery on its constitutionality.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, a freshman lawmaker who had been an ordained minister for 25 years before going into business. Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, who became an ordained minister in 1981, is the Senate sponsor.
Both said when presenting the bill earlier today that their focus is not on religion but on the historic role the Bible has played in Tennessee history in terms of inspiration and the economy. Nashville is home to several religious publishers that have printed millions of Bibles.
But ministers and a rabbi in the Senate committee questioned which Bible the sponsors want to make the official state book, noting that depends on whether one is Catholic, Protestant or Jewish.