After Gov. Bill Haslam refused to sign a bill to designate the Bible as the "official book" of Tennessee, legislators attempted Wednesday to override his veto.
That effort failed by a 50-43 vote in the House of Representatives, meaning the Senate would not have a chance to vote on the measure. According to The Tennesseean newspaper, the vote was the longest and most contentious of the legislative session.
"What if we are the state that fans the flame and causes other states to pay attention and read our actions?" Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), one of the bill's proponents, asked. "What if Tennessee was the state that started the revival that this nation so desperately needs?"
"You know what this legislative body ought to be doing if we really wanted to honor the Bible? We ought to make sure everybody in the state is covered health-wise," Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) said, after noting he had changed his opinion on the bill after reading Scripture. "You're not going to see no difference in Tennessee whether you make it the state book or not."
In vetoing the bill, Haslam called it "sacrilegious," a position also taken by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. A 2015 Tennessee Attorney General's opinion said the law would violate both the state and federal constitutions.
Groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU of Tennessee opposed the bill becoming law. Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver, however, urged its passage and offered free legal support if the state were ever sued as a result of its adoption.
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