The drool is deep in Tennessee. As you know, Dayton, Tennessee was the site of the Scopes Trial, and in 2012 Tennessee became the second state (and the last, so far) to pass one of those Academic Freedom Bills promoted by the Discovery Institute. The event was celebrated by the Discoveroids — see Discoveroids’ Top Ten for 2012 — #4: Tennessee.
But flat-out creationism bills aren’t enough for Tennessee. Last year around this time we wrote Bible — Official State Book of Tennessee? That bill passed in the state House, but it failed in the Senate. There’s been another attempt at the same thing this year. We didn’t bother to post about it because it’s not specifically about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, but it was mentioned in a recent letter-to-the-editor — see Creationist Wisdom #671: Every Word Is True.
It seems that this year’s bible bill passed both houses of the Tennessee legislature. But when it got to the Governor’s office … well, take a look at this headline in the Tennessean of Nashville, Tennessee, the state capital: Gov. Bill Haslam vetoes Bible bill. The newspaper has a comments section. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us:
Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed the controversial bill Thursday that would have made the Holy Bible the official state book of Tennessee. Haslam cited an opinion issued in 2015 by Attorney General Herbert Slatery that said the bill could violate the state and federal constitutions.
We discussed the constitutional issues when we wrote about the 2015 bill. Then we’re told:
“In addition to the constitutional issues with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text,” Haslam wrote in a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
Back in 2012 we criticized Haslam rather severely, referring to his refusal to veto Tennessee’s “academic freedom” bill as the cowardly inaction of a flaming idiot — see Thoughts on the Tennessee Creationism Law. That’s still our opinion, but this time he seems to have done the right thing, although is reasoning is a bit strange. Let’s read on:
“If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance,” the Republican governor said. “If we are recognizing the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book.”
It’s not clear whether it was the constitutional issues or the the lack of respect for the bible that caused Haslam’s veto. It doesn’t matter — at least he vetoed the thing. We continue:
The legislature still has time to overturn the veto. Tennessee’s governor has relatively weak veto power: It takes only a simple majority in both chambers to overrule the governor’s decision. Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, and the Senate sponsor of the bill, sent a letter to the Senate clerk on Thursday afternoon stating that he intends to push for a veto override on Monday or Tuesday.
Aha — the bible battle isn’t over yet. Here’s more:
Supporters tried to argue the move would highlight the economic and historical impact the Bible has had on Tennessee, saying printing the Bible is a “multimillion-dollar industry” for the state. Opponents argued the bill formalized a governmental endorsement of Christianity, while others, like Haslam, argued the move would trivialize the Bible by placing it next to the tomato — the state fruit — and raccoon — the state animal.
The article goes on for a while, quoting various politicians and spokesmen for concerned organizations. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn in “mid April,” so there’s not much time left. The next several days should be very exciting. It’s good to see that state government in Tennessee is concerned with such important issues.
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