By , Jean Lee
Published May 02, 2016
The Tennessee legislature is considering a bill that would make the Bible the official state book.
The bill has passed through most of the committees in the Republican-controlled legislature and appears headed for final votes in the coming days, despite some opposition from GOP leadership.
“It threatens to reduce our sacred scripture to nothing more than a secular symbol, and that's a slippery slope,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris told FoxNews.com.
Norris and others argue that to add a sacred text to the list of official state symbols – including the state bird as the mockingbird -- diminishing the importance and sanctity of the Bible.
And they argue such a move is a direct violation of the Tennessee and United States' constitutions.
Norris said the bill is “likely unconstitutional” because the constitutions' “prohibition against governmental involvement in religion.”
If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1.
Supporters of the bill argue that making the bible the official book of Tennessee is simply a way to pay respect to a piece of history so intertwined in Tennessee history.
“The bill doesn’t have anything to do with religion,” said Rep. Bud Hulsey, a Republican. “It tries to focus on the impact this book has had on the state since before it was a state.”
Still, Hulsey acknowledged the Bible has had a huge impact on the state’s government and economy.
“There are hundreds of Bibles in the archives at the capitol,” he said.
State Sen. Steve Southerland, Republican and a bill sponsor, said printing the Bible is a multimillion dollar industry for the state.
“As the religious printing and publishing capital of America, Nashville is known as the ‘Buckle of the Bible Belt.’ ” he said.
Other state legislatures have tried unsuccessfully in past years to pass a similar bill. Last year, Louisiana lawmakers tried until the sponsor pulled the bill. And a bill in the Mississippi legislature failed earlier this year to get out of committee, according to The Washington Post.
There is no specific version that would become the official Tennessee book, since there are so many different interpretations of the bible, Hulsey said.