Bible shouldn’t be ‘official state book,’ Annie Laurie Gaylor admonishes Tenn. Statehouse

1algfreeblurDo not impose the bible on Tennesseeans, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor warns the state Legislature in an op-ed published in a Tennessee daily newspaper.

“A proposal to anoint the bible as Tennessee’s ‘official state book’ is not only unconstitutional, it is also an affront to true religious freedom,” she opens her piece in the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. The op-ed goes on to explain why this is a completely inadvisable move. “In a pandemic, with so much at stake, the Tennessee Statehouse needs to stop attempting to foist Christianity upon the residents of the state and start working to address their real needs,” it concludes. You can click on the Leaf-Chronicle link above to read the op-ed in the publication itself or peruse it below.

Bible as Tennessee state book a terrible idea

By Annie Laurie Gaylor

A proposal to anoint the bible as Tennessee’s “official state book” is not only unconstitutional, it is also an affront to true religious freedom.

A resolution to do so has passed the House and will now head to the Senate. The Tennessee Constitution specifically guarantees “that no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship.” What could show more preference than having a state legislature designate one religion’s so-called holy book as its official “state book”? Back in 2016, then-Gov. Bill Haslam properly vetoed a similar bill after Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery noted that it violates both the federal and state constitutions.

Imagine the uproar and consternation that would attend the introduction of a bill to designate the Quran as Tennessee’s “official state book.” It is equally contrary to our nation’s religious freedom to single out the Christian Bible.

Under the First Amendment, citizens are free to choose any “holy book” they like, or none at all — the choice of the 26 percent of the American population that is currently religiously unaffiliated. The United States was not founded on the bible or any “holy book,” but on our secular and godless Constitution, which grants sovereignty not to a deity or a “holy book” but to “We the People.” The Founders were well aware of the horrors of the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Thirty Years War, the witch hunts, and the persecution of various faiths in the individual colonies. That’s why they wanted no part of religion in government.

This bill is fiscally irresponsible, as it would almost certainly result in a preventable lawsuit that would cost state taxpayers dearly. The General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee in 2016 estimated such a lawsuit could have cost Tennessee more than $100,000.

Religious faith is a matter for private conscience, not state endorsement. In his decision upholding the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s challenge of Christian indoctrination in Rhea County public schools in Tennessee, Chief U.S. District Judge R. Allan Edgar of Chattanooga wisely noted: “A state-created orthodoxy puts at grave risk freedom of belief and conscience, which is the sole assurance that religious faith is real, not imposed.”

In a pandemic, with so much at stake, the Tennessee Statehouse needs to stop attempting to foist Christianity upon the residents of the state and start working to address their real needs.

Annie Laurie Gaylor is the co-founder and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit with more than 35,000 members and several chapters all across the country, including hundreds of members and a chapter in Tennessee. FFRF protects the constitutional separation between state and church and educates about nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement