NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday vetoed a bill seeking to make Tennessee the first state to designate the Bible as its official book.
Haslam, who as a college graduate considered going to seminary before deciding to join the family truck stop business, said in his veto message that the bill “trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text.”
The bill had narrowly passed both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly after sponsors said it aimed at honoring the significance of the Bible in the state’s history and economy, as opposed to a government endorsement of religion.
Lawmakers passed the bill despite the state attorney general’s warning that the bill would violate both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions. The bill made many lawmakers uneasy by placing the Scripture alongside other official symbols like the state salamander, agricultural insect or rock.
“If we believe that the Bible is the word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance,” Haslam said.
Republican Sen. Steve Southerland, an ordained minister and one of the bill’s main sponsors, filed notice of a bid to override the veto on Monday or Tuesday.
It only takes a majority in both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly to override the governor’s veto. Haslam has previously vetoed three bills since taking office in 2011, and none has been turned back by lawmakers.
Note: A copy of the governor’s veto message is available HERE.