ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto Legislation Making Holy Bible Tennessee’s State Book

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
April 11, 2016 2:15 pm

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NASHVILLE – In an effort to protect the religious freedom of all Tennesseans, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam urging him to veto SB 1108/HB 0615, a measure that would make the Holy Bible the official state book of Tennessee.

“We urge Governor Haslam to veto this unconstitutional legislation and show his constituents—and the rest of the nation—that our state is a place where religious freedom is recognized and respected. Tennesseans come from a range of faith traditions, and the government cannot favor one religious belief over another, nor decide what people should believe,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “We are confident that the governor will do the right thing. If not, we are prepared to consider all legal options.”

SB 1108/HB 0615 makes the Holy Bible the official state book of Tennessee, putting the religious text in the same category as other state symbols like the salamander, catfish or tomato. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week, while the House approved its companion bill last spring.

ACLU-TN’s letter explains that the legislation violates both the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution, which make it clear that government cannot favor one religion over another.

The letter states that “the United States Supreme Court has long interpreted [the Establishment Clause] to mean that…the government cannot favor one religion over another, nor can it favor religion over non-religion.”

The state attorney general has also issued an opinion stating that the legislation violates both the state and federal constitutions.

In the letter, ACLU-TN urges Governor Haslam to veto SB 1108/HB 0615 because, “religion flourishes when it is left in the hands of families and faith communities, not subject to government overreach.”

A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter can be found here.

ACLU-TN has also launched a webpage where individuals can express their opposition to this legislation to the governor, which can be found here.

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