By MIKE VINSON
Wednesday/April 16, I visited with some friends at a place of business in Murfreesboro. And the subjects discussed ran the whole gamut of society.
"I say Hillary Clinton will be the next president, especially with husband Bill in her corner," voiced one. "Now Rubio [Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida] might have a chance at running for vice-president, but he's not politically seasoned enough to qualify as presidential material yet."
"Hillary's carrying way too much baggage," countered another man. "The media and her opponents are going to hammer her on the Benghazi cover-up, and, also, she has that e-mail mess going against her."
Then, cigar in mouth, standing up, with feverish passion, as though delivering a sermon, yet a third man piped in: "What worries me is our country is trillions of dollars in debt, but our state legislators are spending their time pacing the floor at the Capitol arguing about whether to make the Bible the official book for the state of Tennessee!"
Though I was aware of the controversy surrounding the Bible possibly becoming the official book of Tennessee, what the man smoking the cigar said, for some reason, hit me with greater impact than anything I had previously heard or read. That said, since we dwell in the "Bible-Belt," it makes perfect sense for us to discuss the Bible possibly becoming Tennessee's "official book."
A short history:
Representative Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station, TN) introduced House Bill/HB 615 "to amend the Tennessee Code to make the acknowledgement."
The Bill reads: "The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book."
"My purpose for bringing this legislation is to memorialize the role the Bible has played on Tennessee history," stated Sexton, a first-year state legislator, and, also, a former minister. Tennessee lawmakers voted 55-38 in favor of HB 615.
However, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery argues the Bible can't be the official Tennessee book because it would violate "separation of church and state" at both the state and federal levels. A provision in the Tennessee Constitution declares: "No preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship." Even Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has expressed qualms about the Bible being the state's official book. However, as of this writing, Governor Haslam has yet to definitively declare if he will "veto" HB 615. Regardless, the Governor will have to take a stand in the very near future.
Regardless of how House Bill/HB 615 ultimately turns out - the Holy Bible becomes the official book of Tennessee, or the Holy Bible doesn't become the official book of Tennessee - it will cut a wide swath of political division in our Volunteer State, one that very well could have repercussions for generations to come.
Concerning the Bible possibly becoming the state book, I'm gonna throw out a few questions to you:
*If my research is correct, there are more than 70 versions of the "Complete Bible" available to the public. A majority are most familiar with the King James Holy Bible. Well, with the King James series, alone, I found the following: King James 2000 Version; King James Easy Reading Version; King James Version; King James II Version; Modern King James Version; New King James Version...and the list continues. Question: If HB 615 passes, which of these Bibles will be the "official state book"?
*How will Muslims living in Tennessee react if the Bible is made the state's official book?
*Though you might not agree with them, what about "atheists," those who disavow the existence of a Deity, and "agnostics," those who aren't sure, one way or the other, about the existence of a Deity?
When I returned to McMinnville that day (same day I'd socialized with the fellows in Murfreesboro), an older man, a farmer, commented: "By George, if they can make Jack Daniel's whiskey our state drink, then they ought to be able to make the Bible the state book!"
Humor aside, I must ask: If the Bible is voted to be the official book of Tennessee, what will it actually accomplish?