Mississippi Reps Contemplate Designating the Bible as the “State Book”

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January 12, 2015; AL.com

If the U.S. Constitution weren’t persuasive enough, one might think current events throughout the world would convince two Democratic state representatives from Mississippi, Tom Miles and Michael Evans, that designating the Bible as the “state book” isn’t a great idea.

In neighboring Louisiana, lawmakers last year had considered making the Bible Louisiana’s official book, but after devoting a little thought to the constitutional issues, the bill was withdrawn. Miles and Evans, however, appear undeterred.

“Me and my constituents, we were talking about it, and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible,” Evans said in explanation of the origin of the bill. Making the Bible the state book “doesn’t force anyone to read it,” Evans affirmed.

Apparently, coalescing around the Bible is difficult for the two major political parties. Republican state representative Tracy Arnold, who is also the pastor of a nondenominational Christian church, has his own Bible-as-state-book bill in the legislature.

The Louisiana bill was pulled before it ever reached the floor for a vote. Although experts suggested that the Louisiana bill wouldn’t actually violate the Constitution, equating the “official book” designation with stamping “in God we trust” on coinage, the legislation still didn’t go ahead. Perhaps the sponsor of that bill, Republican Thomas Carmody, was concerned that his original bill, which honored a specific historic copy of the Bible in the Louisiana State Museum, had been hijacked by his peers and amended to make any version of the Holy Bible the state book.

Or maybe it was simply the silliness of adding the Bible to the category of things that get “state” designations—birds, shells, and who knows what else. Expect nonprofits that believe in the separation of church and state, others that support people who honor different versions of religious scripture, and still others who think that the Mississippi legislature could be focused on more important issues, to weigh in if Miles and Evans continue to pursue their biblical quest.—Rick Cohen