Tenn. Gov. Rejects Bible|as Official State Book

     NASHVILLE (CN) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday vetoed a controversial bill that would have made the Bible the official book of the Volunteer State.
     Efforts to make the Bible the state’s official book fizzled out last year when state senators voted to send the bill back to a committee.
     House Bill 615 was put back on the Tennessee Senate calendar on April 1. It had been approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives last year 55-38, and got the green light from state senators on April 4 in a 19-8 vote.
     Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said last year that it was “commons sense” that the bill would constitute an endorsement of religion in violation of the state and federal constitutions.
     “Irrespective of the legislation’s actual purpose, common sense compels the conclusion that designation of the Bible as the official state book in practice and effect conveys a message of endorsement,” Slatery wrote in a legal opinion. “Such an endorsement violates the establishment clause of the federal constitution.”
     In addition, the Tennessee Constitution states, in relevant part: “No preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”
     Haslam apparently agreed with Slatery, as he vetoed the bill Thursday afternoon.
     In a letter addressed to Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, the governor cited the state attorney general’s opinion and said that his “personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text.”
     “Men and women motivated by faith have every right and obligation to bring their belief and commitment to the public debate,” Haslam wrote. “However, that is very different from the government establishment of religion that our founders warned against and our Constitution prohibits.”

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