‘Bible bill’ debate renews church and state issues for Tennessee lawmakers

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Another attempt to make the Bible Tennessee’s official state book is certain to draw the same church and state debate this year just like there was before the measure was vetoed by then-Governor Bill Haslam in 2016.

A top state Republican lawmaker even referenced the devil the last time the “Bible bill” was brought up for votes.

“All I know is that I hear Satan snickering,” said Sen. Republican Leader Mark Norris. “He loves this kind of mischief. It’s unnecessary, it’s inappropriate, it’s really belittling if not demeaning to the Bible.”

Former Senator Norris is now a federal judge in West Tennessee, but the main House sponsor of making the Bible the state book five years ago is back with his bill this year.

Here’s how Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton–who is also a pastor–countered arguments that his bill was demeaning.

“I understand that argument. My opinion on that is you could not trivialize the Bible if you wanted to,” said Rep. Sexton when the bill was first introduced.

He saw his bill as historical in nature.

“The family Bible has vital records in it–births, deaths, marriage certificates. And in many cases state government did not have those records,” added Rep. Sexton.

Republican Governor Bill Lee isn’t touching the new Bible bill for now.

“I have not seen that legislation and will not comment on individual pieces of legislation until they get to my desk,” said the governor late Thursday in Johnson City.

The governor’s Republican predecessor Bill Haslam did have to touch the Bible bill in 2016.

His veto was upheld by state lawmakers.

“Obviously this was one we had a position on so obviously I am grateful why we did the veto,” said Governor Haslam after the veto override failed in 2016.

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