‘Bible bill’ debate renews church and state issues for Tennessee lawmakers


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Another attempt to make the Bible Tennessee’s official state book is certain to draw the same church and state debate this year just like there was before the measure was vetoed by then-Governor Bill Haslam in 2016.

A top state Republican lawmaker even referenced the devil the last time the “Bible bill” was brought up for votes.

“All I know is that I hear Satan snickering,” said Sen. Republican Leader Mark Norris. “He loves this kind of mischief. It’s unnecessary, it’s inappropriate, it’s really belittling if not demeaning to the Bible.”

RELATED » Lawmakers introduce bill to make the Holy Bible Tennessee’s official state book

Norris is now a federal judge in West Tennessee, but the main House sponsor of making the Bible the state book five years ago is back with his bill this year.

Here’s how Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton, who is also a pastor, countered arguments that his bill was demeaning.

“I understand that argument. My opinion on that is you could not trivialize the Bible if you wanted to,” said Rep. Sexton when the bill was first introduced.

He saw his bill as historical in nature.

“The family Bible has vital records in it — births, deaths, marriage certificates. And in many cases state government did not have those records,” added Sexton.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee isn’t touching the new Bible bill for now.

“I have not seen that legislation and will not comment on individual pieces of legislation until they get to my desk,” the governor said late Thursday in Johnson City.

The governor’s Republican predecessor Bill Haslam did have to touch the Bible bill in 2016.

RELATED » Effort renewed to make Bible official book of Tennessee

State lawmakers failed to override Haslam’s veto.

“Obviously this was one we had a position on so obviously I am grateful why we did the veto,” Haslam said after the veto override failed in 2016.

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