Tennessee attorney general says Bible bill unconstitutional

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 14, 2015 9:53 PM

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - Tennessee's attorney general said on Tuesday a bill under consideration in the legislature to make the Bible the official state book would be an unconstitutional endorsement that the sacred text does not need.

The bill would violate both the U.S. Constitution and Tennessee's state constitution, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said.

"I am quite confident that the Bible's distinguished place in history will not be diminished in the absence of a state's endorsement," Slatery said in a statement.

He said Tennessee's constitution states that "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."

Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, also has opposed the measure, which was debated on the floor of the state House of Representatives on Tuesday. No vote was taken, but it could come up for a vote on Wednesday.

"The governor doesn't think it's very respectful of what the Bible is," said Haslam's spokesman, Dave Smith.

The bill has also drawn criticism from religious leaders and others who say it violates the separation of church and state under the U.S. Constitution and Tennessee's constitution.

Tennessee has a number of official state symbols including an official amphibian, the Tennessee cave salamander; an official tree, the tulip poplar; an official dance, the square dance; and several official state songs including "Rocky Top" (the University of Tennessee fight song) and "Tennessee Waltz."

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by David Bailey and Mohammad Zargham)