As a lot of you know, a somewhat controversial bill passed through Governor Bill Haslam's office this week. For those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, I'm talking about the newest 'Bible Bill' that would have made the The Holy Bible the official book of the state of Tennessee had it not been vetoed at the last minute. The state house and senate had already approved the bill and many were shocked to find that Haslam denied the measure. Well they shouldn't be.
Before I give my two cents on this, I would like to say I myself identify as a Christian and was also raised in a pastor's household most of my life. So you'd think I would be a critic of Haslam's veto right? Wrong. I was quite relieved to hear his decision quite honestly, and I will explain why.
First off, this bill in terms of overall political importance means absolutely nothing. It's about as important as the raccoon being our state animal or the Tulip Poplar being the state tree; I'm sure no one actually knew that but you get the point. In other words it's just a symbol. It doesn't mean we're going to start forcing the teachings of Jesus on 10-year-olds in our public schools or make non-believers wake up for early morning services on Sunday. It's a symbol and nothing more. So why are some people so enraged by this bill? Well that brings me to a phrase that everyone has heard multiple times throughout their lives and will probably continue to hear as long as religion exists: "The separation of Church and State."
We've heard this phrase ever since we were in early elementary school and its importance still rings true to this day. It's a concept our country was founded upon so that we did not end up like Great Britain, the very country our ancestors had just fled from because of religious persecution (and other unrelated reasons). So does it apply to this bill? Yes and no. Many people believe that since "separation of church and state" isn't specifically mentioned in the Constitution that there isn't actual authority over this subject. However, the Constitution still makes it pretty clear that there should be a pillar between these two aspects of our country. Several court cases over the past few centuries can be your proof for that (Everson v. Board of Education, for example). That being said, there is no actual law saying Tennessee legislators can't propose this measure. Essentially a really old guy named Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase and it has stuck 'til this day.
Representative Steve Southerland (R. Morrsitown) speaks in favor of his proposed bill. (Pic: Associated Press)
So if these legislators knew that this is bill could land us in some constitutional trouble then why did they propose it? Simple, they took out the religious aspect. The people backing this bill are citing that they want it passed because of the book's historical importance rather than its religious importance. That being said, it cannot be denied that the Bible is one of, if not the most influential book to ever be published. When it comes to Tennessee's history it's even more influential. With around 3,000 churches and over 50 megachurches in our state we can infer that the Bible has certainly had a little bit more of an impact on our state compared to many others.
So why are Christians mad over Haslam's decision? To be completely honest I'm not quite sure. Like I stated earlier I myself identify as a Christian and I just don't see what all the fuss is about, I'm not the only believer who feels that way either. Sure, as a Christian I think it would be great to see the book that has influenced my life in enormous ways to be our official book. Do I think it's smart? Not so much. Tennessee was doing just fine right before this measure was proposed and I don't expect God to strike down the Volunteer State for not passing this bill anytime in the near future. However, legislators plan to continue to fight for the bill so this episode isn't quite over.
To conclude, both sides have great points and both sides need to read the Constitution a little more before making their decision, but in the end this bill truly doesn't affect anything and is probably best thrown under the rug. In this day and age everyone is ready to file a lawsuit the first chance they get. I don't know about y'all but I'm tired of shelling out taxes for unnecessary bills comparable to the whole state logo issue that cost us over 40,000 in tax dollars. Tennessee has always been one of the best states in the Union and it will remain that way no matter what happens with this bill.
-Harrison Barron (@Harrison_Barron)
We'd love to hear your opinion in the comments section below!