Will The Bible Be The State Book Of Tennessee?

by Emma Cueto

Lately an unusual number of pushes to institute the Christian Bible as the official book for several U.S. states have been on the table, but it seems this trend may be drawing to a close. Tennessee's attempts to make the Bible its state book have been derailed after the state senate killed the bill.

The bill in Tennessee is the third proposal to make the Bible a state book to have hit legislature in the past year. In February 2014, a Louisiana lawmaker introduced a bill to make the Bible the official state book, but later withdrew it in April of that same year. Four similar bills were introduced in Mississippi earlier in 2015, but all of them have since died in committee. Tennessee has come the closest to enacting such a measure, with the Tennessee house voting in favor of the bill, but now that the senate has voted 22–9 to send the bill to a committee that has been closed, the issue has effectively been put to rest at least for another year. Will it resurface?

Hopefully not, given the breach of separation of church and state that would be involved in naming a religious text as an official state book. After what the founding fathers went to in order to protect us from a reign of established religion, I'd imagine they're rolling over in their graves from the the idea being proposed at all.

What I find most interesting about these proposals, though, is the fact that states typically do not have state books at all. Unless you count Michigan and Massachusetts, which each have a state children's book, none do at present. States have official flowers and songs and pies and Florida even has an official state rodeo, but states don't really have official state books, and it's easy to see why. State symbols are typically meant to either represent the state or celebrate some aspect of it, and most books are a lot more difficult to reduce down such a simple idea (unless, of course, we're talking about adorable children's books and even those occasionally cause controversy).

People have compiled plenty of lists of the most famous books from each state, the best books from each state, the most popular books from each state, and looking at them, you'd be hard pressed to find one a state legislature might want to classify as an official state book.

Take a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance. It's wildly popular, critically acclaimed, and considered a modern classic. It's also set in Alabama and written by an Alabama native. But would anyone from Alabama want it as the official state book? Given its depiction of the ugly side of racial inequality in Alabama's history... meh.

Although it might be cool if states had a state book, it's probably for the best that they don't. Any good book is going to be too complicated to serve as a symbol or an uncritical celebration — and that includes the Bible.

Maybe legislatures can stick to declaring official state sports cars.

Image: Giphy