Friday, April 17, 2015

Hallelujah ~ Tennessee Tries (And Fails) To Make the Bible the State Book

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At least once a year, someone in the Tennessee Legislature writes a bill to make the Holy Bible (King James Version Only) the State Book, and they will literally swear on a Bible that this is Constitutional because they are protecting their own religious freedom.

I mean, why not? It's not like Tennessee has anything else on the agenda, like passing Medicaid for the poor, or solving school funding problems. Oh, wait ...

There are people in the TN Legislature who have apparently never read the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Amendment I states unequivocally:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

From Nashville Public Radio
. . . the state's attorney general, Herbert Slatery, released an opinion Tuesday that stated the proposal violates both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution. In fact, Slatery said, the state prohibition on government involvement in religion is actually stronger than at the federal level, barring not only the establishment of a church, but also preference for any "mode of worship."
Several lawmakers warned of legal challenges if the proposal passes.

But support for the proposal has come from across the political aisle. The most passionate on Tuesday was a Democrat, Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis. He said Christians have become "too accommodating" toward people of other faiths, and the bill represents a chance for them to stick up for their beliefs.
"Won't you stand for something? Stand for something, and stop falling for everything."
DeBerry's speech drew a standing ovation. But even some religiously conservative lawmakers are opposing the proposal.

Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) says it demeans the Bible and goes against the principles laid out by the nation and state's founders.
"They knew better than to enter in the personal relationship with God with the portion of the laws that govern us."

Tennessee has another sacred book anyway - the Tennessee Blue Book, which is handed out to visitors to the Capitol and school children across the state. It lists the current members of State Government, but also fun stuff like pictures of the state flag, the state flower (iris), the state wildflower (passiong flower), the state animal (salamander), and the state bird (mockingbird). Luckily for our state, even some Republicans think it is silly or even disrespectful to list the Holy Bible alongside the state salamander.

We could just make the Tennessee Blue Book the State Book.

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My own feeling is that the Bible wasn't written in Tennessee, so why should it be the state book? Obviously our red-state Legislature isn't going to choose Al Gore's book on global warming, but how about the famous All the President's Men by Robert Penn Warren? Nope - too cerebral for Tennessee, where most wouldn't know the author's name. But there's the blockbuster Roots by Alex Haley - everyone's heard of Roots, right? Never mind - that's a black experience book, and any bill that puts forth a black writer is going to be tabled anyway. The beloved Christie by Catherine Marshall might work because it's so religious, but then, the author was Presbyterian and not Evengelical enough. How 'bout something by Cormac McCarthy, James Agee, or Wilma Dykeman? Oh wait - some of those books have ideas that might not jive with the Holy Word of God. Cormac McCarthy has some bad words and sex, and Wilma Dykeman wrote an early book about family planning - can't have that. And James Agee went to Hollywood and wrote "The African Queen" - no Africans, please - they might be related to that Kenyan in the White House. Don't remind us.

Anyway, Governor Haslam was probably going to veto the Bible Bill anyway, but luckily for him the state Senate killed it yesterday. A blessing for everyone. Amen. At least until next year when they bring it up again, because they always do.

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