Christian governor of Tennessee vetoes making Bible official state book

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill HaslamReuters

The Republican Governor of Tennessee has used his personal veto against a bill to make the Bible the state's official book.

Governor Bill Haslam, a committed Christian, said it would violate the federal and state constitutions.

The sponsor of the bill, Jerry Sexton, immediately filed to override the veto. Each house must vote against the veto by a majority for the bill now to go through. 

In a letter to the Speaker of the house, Beth Harwell, Governor Haslam wrote: "My personal feeling is that this bill trivialises the Bible, which I believe is sacred text. If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn't be recognising it only as a book of historical and economic significance.

"If we are recogising the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book. Our founders recognised that when the church and state were combined, it was the church that suffered in the long run."

He said he "strongly disagreed" with those trying to drive religion out of the public square. "All of us should and must bring our deepest beliefs to the places we are called, including government service."

The Tennessee state senate voted a week ago to make the Bible its official book.

Bill Haslam's Bible veto letter

Hedy Weinberg, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, welcomed the veto. In an email to The Tennessean she said: "Religion thrives when it is left in the hands of families and faith communities. Publicly elected government officials cannot use their official positions to favor one religious belief over another. The governor's veto of this unconstitutional legislation ensures that religious freedom can flourish in Tennessee."

Polls show that more that six in ten people in Tennessee support making the Bible the state book.

Tennessee voted to make the Bible its "official" book soon after voting to make a sniper gun the official state rifle. The bill was the first of its kind in the US.

The state already has an official tree, the tulip poplar, two official flowers, the purple passion flower and the iris, an official fruit, the tomato, and two official birds, the mockingbird and the partridge.

Many top Bible publishers have their company headquarters in Tennessee.