Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible the official book of the state, saying the measure actually downplayed the significance of the Good Book and turned it into a historical, rather than spiritual, text.
“In addition to the constitutional issues with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text,” Haslam wrote in a letter to the speaker of the statehouse, the Washington Post reported.
He went on, saying: “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. If we are 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.”
Supporters said the Bible actually holds economic, cultural and historical significance for Tennessee and pointed to the text of the bill, which reminded “printing the Bible is a multi-million dollar industry for the state with many top Bible publishers headquartered in Nashville.”
Bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Steve Southerland, an ordained minister, said he only intended the bill to recognize the Bible’s “historical and cultural contribution to the state of Tennessee,” the Washington Post reported.
But opponents decried the measure as a promotion of one religion over another.
“Lawmakers’ thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions clearly violates both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions, as our state attorney general has already pointed out,” said ACLU-Tennessee executive director Hedy Weinberg said, after the bill passed the Senate a few days ago.
Lawmakers, with a simple majority, could still override Haslam’s veto, the Tennessean reported.