A Republican-sponsored bill making its way through the state legislature could make the Bible the official state book of Louisiana, despite concerns that some of the legislation could violate the First Amendment.
A committee approved the bill to designate the King James Bible as the official state book of Louisiana last week, with a mix of Democrats and Republicans supporting the measure, and only a handful Democrats opposing it, according to The Advocate’s vote count. The full House is expected to consider the legislation this week, according to KTAL.
The original measure, introduced by Republican state Rep. Thomas Carmody, would have made a specific edition of the King James Bible – the oldest edition of the text in the Louisiana State Museum system – the state book. But lawmakers amended the bill to designate simply the “Holy Bible” instead.
“This is not about establishing an official religion,” Carmody said when pressed about whether the legislation violates the constitutional separation of church and state requirement, according to The Times-Picayune.
State Rep. Wesley Bishop, a Democrat, told The Advocate he was concerned the legislation could become a target for a lawsuit.
“You cannot separate Christianity from the Bible,” Bishop said while explaining his opposition to the bill. “If you adopt the Bible as the official state book, you also adopt Christianity as the state religion ... We are going to open ourselves up to a lawsuit.”
The ACLU of Louisiana also opposes the measure.
“This whole thing is really a not-very-well concealed effort to use discrimination against those people in Louisiana who do not include the Holy Bible in their belief system,” ACLU executive director Marjorie Esman said, according to TIME. “It’s unfortunate that Louisiana thinks it’s okay to try and enshrine discrimination in the law.”