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Tennessee legislator wants the Bible to become official state book

Tennessee legislator wants the Bible to become official state book
Tennessee state representative Jerry Sexton, who seeks to make the Bible the official state book. (Erik Schelzig / AP)

Tennessee state representative Jerry Sexton, a Republican from Bean Station, is only a month into his first term but he's got big plans: He'd like to make the Bible the state's official book.

The Associated Press reports that the proposal may be at odds with Tennessee's constitution, which states, "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."

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In 2015, the Bible has become popular with state legislators. Two members of Mississippi's House of Representatives have proposed legislation to make it the state book there as well. One of them, Michael Evans, explained, "Me and my constituents, we were talking about it and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible."

Making a book the official state book doesn't require that people read it, of course, any more than making "The Tennessee Waltz" the state song would require people sing it. (Tennessee has a plethora of official state songs, 10 in all).

In 2014, a Louisiana legislator proposed making the Bible his state's official book, but withdrew the legislation. Legal scholars consulted at the time said the establishment of a religious state book might be hard to challenge. "You can promote religion so long as it doesn't rise to the level of establishing a church," one told the Times-Picayune.

So how the making the Bible an official state book might jibe with the American principle of separation of church and state has not yet been tested.

Book news and more; I'm @paperhaus on Twitter

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