Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
A Tennessee Republican lawmaker is trying to get the Bible designated the official state book.
“This country wasn’t founded on Buddhist, or Muhammad or any of those religions,” State Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) said. “Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values.”
Sexton introduced House Joint Resolution 150 this week that would add the Bible to the state’s list of symbols as the state’s book.
Democrats said that the resolution would be unconstitutional because the First Amendment bans the government from establishing a religion.
Rep. Bo Mitchell (D) said that his neighborhood has people of different faiths in it and he doesn’t want to elevate one religion above others.
“It’s kind of hard for me to be caring and tolerant of my neighbors if I’m telling them my book is better than their book and it ought to be recognized by this state,” he said.
But Sexton says that that’s a sign that the Bible is being “discriminated against.”
“What I’m trying to do is to be respectful toward everyone’s concerns, and just put the Bible where I feel like that it belongs,” he said.
Some of his Republican colleagues are backing him.
“Just like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Ida B. Wells and now the Bible, it’s just our common heritage,” said Rep. Glen Casada (R). “And those things should be welcomed by everyone in Tennessee. You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to like it, but it’s part of our common heritage.”
Rep. Tim Rudd (R) said that the resolution wouldn’t be unconstitutional since they’re not literally establishing an official state religion.
“Recognizing the Bible does not establish a religion; that would take the state saying that the Methodist Church or Christianity or Islam or Buddhism is the official state religion,” he said.
According to the Tennessean, this is the third time Sexton has introduced the resolution. In 2018, the state legislature passed the resolution but the state’s Republican governor vetoed it.
Earlier this week, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill to ban transgender girls and women from participating in school sports.