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Let's Just Count All The States That Aren't Trying To Make The Bible Their Official State Book

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Congratulations, Tennessee, you're now on the distinguished list of states who need a quick refresher in How Does The First Amendment Work, No Really, How?


You can thank your new state Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-No Surprise) for proposing legislation to make the Holy Bible "the official state book." Gosh, why might that be a problem?

It's unclear how the proposal would meet a provision in Tennessee Constitution that states that "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."

Right. Also, too, with the U.S. American Constitution, which has some text buried deep inside it that "prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion," but who knows what that is, some footnote or something no one ever even talks about.

Sigh.

Do we need to talk about why it is not actually OK to designate a religious text as an official state anything? Apparently, yes, we do. Remember when a committee in the Louisiana House tried to do the same damn thing last year? The genius in that particular legislature was state Rep. Thomas Carmody, who not only wanted to make "the Holy Bible" the official book o' the state, but wanted "a particular copy of the Bible — the oldest existing Bible in the state library system, printed sometime between 1510 and 1528," though he then introduced a revised bill naming the good ol' generic King James version, which, ahem, still refers to a particular religion (the Jesus kind), and therefore still conflicts with a particular constitutional amendment that says NO, YOU CANNOT DO THAT.

But Carmody insisted that it was totally kosher to make the King James Bible the official state book. "It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature," he said. Oh, OK then, wink wink, whatever, pal. WRONG.

And then there was Mississippi, who wanted to go even more unconstitutional than that by making Christianity the official state religion. (Hint: You can't do that either.)

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The Magnolia State Heritage Campaign had a brilliant solution to getting around that pesky part of the First Amendment that says you cannot do that by writing into its proposed law that it didn't violate the First Amendment because it said so. Genius!

The State of Mississippi hereby acknowledges the fact of her identity as a principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state, in terms of the majority of her population, character, culture, history, and heritage, from 1817 to the present; accordingly, the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues; and, accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens. The acknowledgments hereby secured shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

We're sure it is only a matter of seconds before one of his more experienced colleagues pulls Rep. Sexton aside, slips some copies of some constitutions into his back pocket, and whispers in his ear, "You might want to read up on this stuff, newbie." At least, we certainly hope so.

[Tennessean]

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