In a move that could cause damage to his political career in the deep red state of Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam has vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible the official book of the Volunteer State.
But the governor’s action did not rely so much on the obvious constitutional argument as much as on the very sanctity of the Holy Book itself. Gov. Haslam felt that designating the Bible the state book would trivialize the great tome. He even cited the founding fathers in his argument. In a letter to Beth Harwell, the Tennessee Speaker of the House, he said:
Our founders recognized that when the church and state were combined, it was the church that suffered in the long run.
If Haslam had signed the bill, Tennessee would have been the first state to name the Bible as its official state book.
Many political observers are praising the governor for rejecting the controversial bill. They point out how hard it is for any Deep South politician to vote against the Bible. But all is not lost for the state as its legislators are hell-bent on passing the measure.
Sen. Steve Souterland, sponsor of the bill, said he plans to push for a veto override. House sponsor Rep. Jerry Sexton said the same and added that polls show the citizen of Tennessee support the legislation.
Supporters of the bill plan to override the veto as early as next week. All that is required is a simple majority in both chambers.
Considering the bill passed in the state house by a vote of 55-38 and in the senate by a vote of 19-8, an override seems a mere formability.
Tennessee may yet have that much-coveted distinction of being the first state in the union to make the Bible its official state book … whatever that means.
The Constitution? Separation of church and state? Just more easy work for our federal court system.
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