Gov. Bill Haslam vetoes Bible bill

Bible tile
photo Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announces the retirement plans of TennCare Director Darin Gordon, right, during a press conference at the state Capitol in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. Before Gordon’s tenure, the state expanded Medicaid program had 10 directors in 12 years. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
NASHVILLE - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam today vetoed a controversial measure making the Holy Bible the official book of Tennessee government.

In his veto message, Haslam cited Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery's legal opinion last year stating the bill violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution as well as Article I, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution which states "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."

Haslam said in the letter that "my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text. If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn't be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance."

He said if the state is "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."

The governor said that although "I strongly disagree with those who are trying to drive religion out of the public square," that is "very different from the governmental establishment of religion that our founders warned us against and our Constitution prohibits."

Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, the ordained minister who sponsored the Senate version, filed notice with Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey, stating, "I intend to move to repass Senate Bill 615, not withstanding the objections of the executive."

He said that would be either on Monday or Tuesday depending on when the House sends the bill back to the Senate.

State lawmakers return to the state Capitol in Nashville on Monday to conclude their annual legislative session and hope to adjourn Tuesday.