It turns out Tennessee’s Governor Haslam is not keen on making history. At least not where the Bible is concerned.
On Thursday, April 14, 2016, Governor Haslam vetoed a bill passed by the state senate that would have made the Bible Tennessee’s official state book. Had the the bill been signed into law, Tennessee would have become the first state in history to name the Bible its state book.
In a letter explaining his decision to veto the bill, Governor Haslam wrote, “If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance. If we are recognizing the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book.”
The governor shared his disagreement with “those who are trying to drive religion out of the public square.” He explained his personal conviction, “All of us should and must bring our deepest beliefs to the places we are called, including government service,” and that people of faith “have every right and obligation to bring their belief … to the public debate.” But he maintained his belief that bringing one’s belief to the public debate is “very different from the governmental establishment of religion that our founders warned against and our Constitution prohibits.”
According to The Tennesseean, sponsors of the bill intend to call for a veto override, which would likely happen sometime next week.
This controversial bill has believers on both sides of the issue for multiple reasons. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Senator Southerland, says “what we’re doing here is recognizing it for its historical and cultural contribution to the state of Tennessee.” However, those in opposition (including the governor) argue that the bill trivializes the Bible and violates the Constitution’s instruction not to elevate one religion above another.
This bill and the resulting debate points to a greater trend in our nation right now: How should Christians live out their biblically based convictions and when should they take a step back and “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”