Miss. lawmakers want Bible to become official state book

Lawmakers in Mississippi are trying to pass a couple of bills that would make the Bible the official book of the state.

Two bills are being filed -- one by State Rep. William Arnold (R) -- pastor of a nondenominational Christian Church.  Another by State Reps. Tom Miles (D) and Michael Evans (D). Miles and Evans told the AP their bill has promise of bipartisan support from more than 20 of their colleagues. A spokesperson from Arnold’s capitol office in Jackson, Miss. said he is not available for comment at this time, but a press release will be sent out later this week.

Miles told the AP on Monday he is not trying to force religion on anyone. “The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people,” Miles said. “They could read in there about love and compassion.”

“Come on, that’s absurd,” said American Atheists Organization Public Relations Director Danielle Muscato.  “He doesn’t care about kindness or compassion. He cares about promoting his religious views and he doesn’t care if he has to abuse his authority as a government official to do that,” said Muscato.

With or without the bill, some Miss. residents think the state will still remain one of the most religious in the nation.

“The lawmakers said it wasn’t their goal to force Christianity on anybody but to teach people to treat others with dignity,” said Mississippi resident Zac Tucker.”But honestly, this won’t make the state of Mississippi read it anymore than they already do.”

Miss., also known as “the magnolia state,” is in fact the most religious state in the county, according to a Gallup Poll.  59 percent of Mississippians consider themselves “very religious.”

State lawmakers have also designated other symbols for Miss. in the past. The teddy bear became Mississippi’s official “state toy” in 2002 -- representing President Theodore Roosevelt because he went to the Mississippi Delta to hunt black bear in 1902, according to the State Symbols USA organization. And milk gets its glory too --  officially becoming Mississippi’s state beverage in 1984.

“It’s an apt choice,” said Miss. State University student Satyajit Upasani when asked about the proposed Bible bill. “As long as it remains only a symbol.”

Others think there are many options to consider. “Well I think with the rather impressive line up of Mississippi authors it’s kind of a shame to use a book from somewhere else,” said Miss. resident Patton Henley.

Miss. is known for famous writers and poets -- William Faulkner, Richard Wright, and most recent U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey from Gulfport, Miss.