Samuel Case, FISM News
On Monday the Tennessee House of Representatives voted 59-22 to designate “the Bible as the official State book.” The vote marks the third time Tennessee legislators have tried to implement such a bill. In 2016 Former Governor Bill Haslam (R) vetoed a similar resolution and another failed to pass through the state Senate in 2020.
State Representative Jerry Sexton (R), who sponsored the resolution, said this year’s bill is the same as the 2020 version with the only change being additional language about the Aitken Bible, which was approved and recommended by Congress in 1782. Sexton said this addition was meant to “show the history of the Bible in America.”
The practice of a legislative body approving and recommending the Bible to the American people dates back to September 12, 1782, when Congress passed a resolution approving and recommending the Aitken Bible, which was the first English Bible printed in North America, to “all inhabitants of the United States.
The resolution notes that “the Holy Bible has great historical and cultural significance in the State of Tennessee as a record of the history of Tennessee families that predates some modern vital statistical records,” and that designating the Bible “the official State book is in keeping with the religious connotations reflected in other State symbols and songs.”
State Representative Johnny Shaw (D) opposed the resolution, saying: “The church is a living organism. There’s nothing or no other institution on earth that can meet the standards of the Lord Jesus’ church . . . For us to say that we live according to the Bible – this Bible is for every individual to read but is nobody’s book but God’s.”
When Governor Haslam vetoed a previous version of the resolution in 2016, he argued the bill had “constitutional issues,” and said the bill “trivializes” the Bible. “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,” Haslam said.