Louisiana is working on legislation that will make the Holy Bible its official state book. After receiving a vote of 8-5 on Thursday afternoon by the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs, the bill will now go to the state's House of Representatives.
The Times-Picayune reports that when Rep. Thomas Carmond, R-Shreveport originally filed the bill, he hoped to make a unique version of the Bible found in the Louisiana State Museum system, the official state book. But when he finally made the proposal to the committee, his legislation requested instead for the regular King James version of the Bible (a version used worldwide) to be made the state's official book.
Dismissing those who believe the representative has a specific religious agenda or that this is an attempt to unite church and state, Carmond responded, "This is not about establishing an official religion."
Still, some legislators are in opposition of the proposal, concerned that using the King James version of the Bible would not reflect the culture of modern-day Louisiana.
Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, believes the legislation has potential to be stronger. "Let's make this more inclusive of other Christian faiths, more than just the ones that use the King James version," he said.
Some committee members reportedly fought the bill vigorously, believing it would create new legal challenges for the state. They worry this kind of legislation would receive backlash from citizens who are not Christian.
"I am so bothered by this bill that I just called my pastor," said Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, who voted against the legislation. "My pastor just said that he thinks we are going to have a legal problem."
When asked if he would be open to a legistlation that include "all books of faith," Carmody refused. "I would certainly be against that amendment," he said, according to The Times-Picayune.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana already expressed their concerns about the bill. "[The official state book] ought to be one that relates to the history of Louisiana and not one that is going to discriminate against a large number of Louisianans," said Majorie Esman, executive director of the organization. It is not yet clear whether the ACLU would fight the legislation in court if it became law.