Some Christians expressed concern that Tennessee lawmakers had named the Bible as the state’s official book, saying the move trivialized the religious document.
Supporters say the measure recognizes the book’s importance to American history, but Catholic leaders and other Christians said the designation could marginalize non-Christians, reported Crux.
“As a Catholic, as a Christian, we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, but I also recognize that we live in a pluralistic society and we have a mixture of different faiths,” said Bishop Richard Stika, of the Diocese of Knoxville.
A recent poll found 81 percent of adults in Tennessee are Christian, and 6 percent of the population is Catholic.
Catholics and other Christians have feuded throughout history over which translation of the Bible to use, although the Tennessee bill does not specify which version is official.
That worries Stika, who said some translations are more scholarly than others.
“That scholarship is important because of how it is interpreted,” the bishop said. “If the governor signs, which Bible will it be? That is a concern. It just causes confusion.”
The executive director of a Catholic lobbying group said he wished lawmakers would focus on legislation that promoted biblical values instead of simply promoting religious displays.
“In Scripture, Jesus tells us that God will judge us by how we treat the poor,” said said Christopher Hale, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. “If that’s the case, how is the legislature’s refusal to expand healthcare coverage to the state’s poorest residents reflecting a strong devotion to biblical principles?”
The bill awaits signature by Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said the Bible is the most important book in the world but still opposes the measure, although he has not said whether he would veto it.
“If the governor agrees, and he has vetoed only three bills in his six years, Tennessee would be the first state to make the Holy Bible a state symbol, putting it on par with other revered things like the tomato (state fruit), the mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos (state bird), the tulip poplar (state tree), the raccoon (state wild animal), and, of course, the Barrett M82/M107, which was designated the official state rifle in February,” wrote columnist Frank Daniels III, of The Tennesseean.
The columnist rejected arguments by the bill’s supporters, who say the Bible is important as a history book, and approvingly cited the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who wrote: “I believe that the existence of the Bible is the greatest benefit to the human race. Any attempt to belittle it, I believe, is a crime against humanity.”
Daniels urged the governor to veto the measure, which he argued violated the state and U.S. constitutions and trivialized the Bible.