A bill in Tennessee that would designate the Bible as the official state book failed June 19.

The legislation, HB 2778, was considered earlier this year but got derailed after the state legislature went out of session due to the coronavirus pandemic. Its primary sponsor is state Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station).

Former Gov. Bill Haslam (R) vetoed similar legislation four years ago.

During debate over the measure in March, Sexton asserted, “I say we have taken God out of our country, and it’s time for us to put him back. It’s time for us to put the Word where it belongs.”

But other lawmakers challenged Sexton over which version of the Bible the state would be endorsing. Although Sexton insisted there is only one version of what he called the “Holy Bible,” state Rep. Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova), said he had done some research and found 92 English-language versions of the Bible, “and there’s probably a lot more than that.”

Even some conservatives expressed reservations. State Rep. Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville) told lawmakers that voting against the bill “is not a referendum on your personal beliefs or your personal relationship with your creator or your savior” – a line that won him applause.

“I have struggled with this,” Vaughan said. But in the end, he said he could not support the measure, even though he believes the Bible to be the infallible word of God.

“I just don’t believe that bestowing a ceremonial title on the living word of God is something that this body needs to engage in. … It tends to alienate,” Vaughan said.

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