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Senate to vote on making Bible official book of Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A contentious bill seeking to declare the Holy Bible the official book of Tennessee is headed back for a vote in the full state Senate.

The measure narrowly passed the House last year, but the Senate sent it back to committee amid constitutional concerns raised by the state attorney general.

Republican Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown revived the measure Tuesday, and it cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7-1 vote. Southerland said it is aimed at highlighting the historical significance of the Bible in Tennessee, not as an official endorsement of a religion.

Opponents like Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville last year argued that the Bible is far too sacred to be trivialized by being placed alongside other official symbols like the state fruit, amphibian or rock.

Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, released the following statement in response:

“We are disappointed that Tennessee lawmakers have voted to use their official positions to promote their personal religious beliefs.  The rich religious diversity in our state is best respected by ensuring that government does not promote specific religious books.  Selecting the Bible as the state book amounts to government promotion of one religion over other religions, which clearly violates both the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions.  America is a place where people are free to practice religion, or not, without government officials deciding which beliefs should be endorsed.  We will continue to fight this unconstitutional legislation.”