No state has tried more often than Tennessee to make the Bible its state book.
And now legislators are trying again. But that doesn't mean they ought to be successful.
A resolution designating the Bible as the official state book passed the state House 55-28 earlier this week and now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
The arguments for and against the measure haven't changed since it was proposed in 2015, 2016 and 2020. Supporters say the book has historical and cultural significance. They say family Bibles contain histories of families that predate modern statistical records. And they say the state is home to a number of Bible publishing companies.
Detractors say it trivializes what is often described as the inspired word of God, assigning it a spot next to the Barrett M82/M107 as the state rifle.
We like what state Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, said in 2015: "'Pilgrim's Progress' is a book, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a book. The Bible is the word of God — it's a whole different level."
The potential for making the Bible the official state book brings with it certain hazards, hazards that weren't a problem when legislators made the likes of Pterotrigonia the state fossil.
Unlike the whole Bible, no faith groups could say the Pterotrigonia does not represent us. Unlike the Bible, no one has ever wondered which version of the Pterotrigonia would be designated. And unlike the Bible, no one has ever suggested the Pterotrigonia would be advocating a state religion.
If the proposal were to go the distance this time, Tennessee would become the first state not only with the Bible as its official book but the first state with an official book.
Two other states have slight aberrations.
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Alabama has an official Bible purchased in 1853 that is used for all gubernatorial swearing-in ceremonies, and Massachusetts has an official children's book, the 1941 "Make Way for Ducklings," unless it has been canceled because it pictured too many white ducks.
Other states have tried and failed to make the Bible their state book. But they, unlike the Energizer Bunny, didn't just keep going and going and going.
' In 2017, the Arkansas House, without a single opposition vote, passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the Christian Bible, in any recognized form, as the official state book. Supporters said there were too many legal hurdles to make it the legal state book.
* In 2014, a Louisiana representative proposed to make the Bible the official state book but shelved the effort weeks later by saying the bill had become a distraction from other more important matters. The effort, which had named a specific edition as the official version, drew criticism from Christians and non-Christians alike.
* In 2015, 2016 and 2020, Mississippi legislators — Democrats and Republicans — mounted unsuccessful efforts to make the Bible the Magnolia State's official book.
* In 2017, a Republican delegate introduced a bill in West Virginia's House of Delegates that would have made the Bible the official state book. The delegate thought the state might get around any controversy by saying the state could have multiple official state books. It didn't; the bill didn't go anywhere.
In 2016 here in Tennessee, you may recall, the bill making the Bible the official state book passed both houses of the legislature — led by supermajorities of Republicans — and was sent to then-Gov. Bill Haslam, also a Republican.
Haslam, who had broadcast his misgivings about the bill, vetoed it, saying it "trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text." The legislature attempted to override his veto, but could not.
In the House floor tally on making the Bible the official state book last week, state Reps. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, and Robin Smith, R-Hixson voted "yes"; state Reps. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, and Hazlewood voted "no." State Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, did not vote.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said he would vote "no" on the bill, and said he does not believe it will pass the Senate.
Gov. Bill Lee has not announced a definitive stance. The measure's House sponsor, Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, says he "did not get an either-or" from him, and the governor's spokeswoman, Laine Arnold, said the administration plans to "keep an eye on it as moves on the Senate side."
We hope it won't get that far. The Bible, for all its significance throughout history and today, is unlikely to save a soul, nor will a few more copies of it be sold, by being the state's official book.
No, we adhere to what state Sen. Mark Norris, the Senate majority leader at the time and now a United States District Court judge, said about the attempt in 2015.
"All I know is that I hear Satan snickering," he said. "He loves this kind of mischief. You just dumb the Good Book down far enough to make it ... a state symbol, and you're on your way to where he wants you."