By Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker
Freedom From Religion Foundation
It's hard to believe that in 2014 a bill to declare “the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana” would gain traction in the Louisiana legislature. Yesterday, a House committee voted 8-5 to approve House Bill 503, which does precisely that, and now heads to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shrevepoint, originally declared a specific 16th century copy of the bible in the Louisiana State Museum system as the “official state book.” Then Carmody changed the language to make the “generic” King James Version the “official state book.”
It’s an understatement to point out there are a lot of problems with this bill. First, the King James Version ain’t “generic” — it’s Protestant. There were riots in the streets, arsons of churches, deaths in Philadelphia in 1843, over precisely this kind of show of government preference for the King James Version over the Catholic version in public schools.
Ironically, aware that the bill endorses Protestantism over Catholicism, Rep. Stephen Oretego, D-Carencro, argued: “Let’s make this more inclusive of other Christian faiths, more than just the ones that use the King James Version.” This, of course, misses the point: Government preference of all “Christian faiths” is equally inappropriate and unconstitutional, being intrinsically exclusionary of all non-Christians and all non-believers. Same problem when Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-New Harvey, suggested amending the bill to declare “all books of faith” the official state books of Louisiana! (Imagine the consternation had the legislators actually voted to make the Koran an “official state book.”)
It’s hard to credit this degree of zealotry, insensitivity and ignorance among state legislators in a nation where surveys and polls show that as many as 30% of the U.S. population now identifies as nonreligious. The “Christian Nation” Big Lie, repeated over and over, apparently has done its damage. Legislators who took an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution in all its glorious godlessness apparently have never bothered to examine it.
The taboo against criticizing the bible has also taken a toll. Ruth Hurmence Green, author of "The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible" (the first book FFRF published and still a bestseller), put it this way: “There is no other book between whose cover life is so cheap.” The bible is a handbook for superstition, despotism, bigotry, oppression of women, homophobia, child abuse and the substitution of blind obedience and faith for reason.
Here’s a thought — how about making Richard Dawkins’ blockbuster, “The God Delusion,” Louisiana’s official state book? These legislators are clearly under the delusion they live in a theocracy.
Contact your legislator today! To find out who your legislator is, type in your zip code here.
You can also voice your opinion by utilizing social media and commenting on online news sites.
Submit a letter to the editor to the Times-Picayune in Baton Rouge here.
You can also submit a letter-to-the-editor at the Advocate here.
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste wording below. (Read Andrew Seidel’s letters for more background.)
As a Louisiana citizen, I am outraged that any legislator would even contemplate adopting a state law endorsing the bible, much less declaring one version of it the “official state book of Louisiana.” We live in a secular republic, not a Christian nation or state. This outrageous bill is unconstitutional. It is not the business of the State of Louisiana to dictate what religion citizens must conform to, much less to endorse one particular so-called “holy book” over another. Kill HB 503, get off your knees and get to work!