Tennessee Lawmakers Lose Bid to Make Bible the Official State Book

The Tennessee House fails to override the governor's veto.

Forty-three House members voted in favor of the bill, but supporters needed 50 to meet the threshold of the 99-member chamber. Both the House and Senate would need to a majority vote for the bill to become law. The Senate has not voted on the governor’s veto, but had approved the bill 19-8 earlier this month.

Horatio Mihet, chief litigation counsel of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, told ABC News there is a “gross misunderstanding of the Establishment Clause,” which he says requires “neutrality towards religion.”

Mihet, whose legal organization supports the bill, agrees with lawmakers who argue that making the Bible the official state book is based on the historical context affiliated with it, and “to say that the Bible plays an important role in society is not to trivialize it,” referencing family genealogy and historical aspects and events of the Bible “that can properly be taught in a public school.”

But opponents of the bill, including Michael De Dora, director of public policy for Center for Inquiry, a New York educational organization, have commended Haslam’s position. “To designate the Bible in this way would cheapen it. Involving it in political debates, I think leads down the path that the Bible becomes this political tool,” De Dora told ABC News.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, also agreed with the views of the governor and the attorney general.

“Privileging one religion over another, as they would be doing if they were to make the Bible the official state book, is clearly violating the Establishment clause to the First Amendment,” Weinberg told ABC News.

But Liberty Counsel’s Mihet believes the bill is “worthy enough to debate in public light,” and to better understand the Establishment Clause.