First up from the God Machine this week is a report out of Mississippi, where some lawmakers have decided it’s time to make the Christian Bible the official state book (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).,
Rep. Tom Miles of Forest says he and fellow Democratic Rep. Michael Evans of Preston are filing a bill, and they already have received bipartisan promises of support from more than 20 of their colleagues.Miles says Mississippi has a state bird, a state flower and even a state toy, so it should have a state book.
According to the local report in the Clarion-Ledger, the lead sponsor of the proposal said this week “that he’s not trying to force religion – or even reading – on anyone.”
If this sounds at all familiar, Louisiana very nearly made the Christian Bible its official state book last year, but backed off once the bill’s sponsor acknowledged some “constitutional problems.”
In case it’s not obvious, similar “problems” would plague the Mississippi effort, if it proceeds. In our system of government, government is expected to remain neutral on matters of religion, and for state policymakers to specifically endorse one religion’s holy text would almost certainly run afoul of the First Amendment.
In other words, Mississippi would be inviting a costly lawsuit that it would inevitably lose.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A heartbreaking story out of Colorado: “When hundreds of Vanessa Collier’s closest loved ones crammed into the pews of New Hope Ministries in Lakewood, Colorado on Saturday to attend her funeral, they settled in for the mix of melancholy and merriment that often accompanies a burial: mourning, storytelling, and a passionate celebration of life. But after about 15 minutes, Pastor Ray Chavez abruptly brought the service to a halt. In a move that shocked those present, Chavez said he wouldn’t proceed with the ceremony because Collier, a mother of two, was a lesbian.”
* Thank goodness for the First Amendment: “Pope Francis suggested there are limits to freedom of expression, saying in response to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack that ‘one cannot make fun of faith’ and that anyone who throws insults can expect a ‘punch.’”
* Louisiana’s competing prayer rallies will be held a week from today: “A group of religious leaders has scheduled a prayer rally at Southern University to rival Gov. Bobby Jindal’s religious gathering – officially called The Response – at LSU.”
* An interesting controversy out of North Carolina: “Duke University has reversed its decision to use its campus bell tower to sound a weekly call-to-prayer for Muslim students, the school said Thursday. The university said in a statement it has ‘reconsidered’ its plan to sound the adhan, which marks the beginning of the weekly jummah prayer service, from the chapel on Friday.”
* No wonder this guy was recently demoted: “Cardinal Raymond Burke, a senior American churchman in Rome who has been one of the most outspoken critics of Pope Francis’ push for reform, is roiling the waters yet again, this time arguing that the Catholic Church has become too ‘feminized.’”
* This Atlanta controversy garnered national headlines: “For those anxiously awaiting the nation’s next religious freedom showdown, look no further than Atlanta, where a growing controversy is currently unfolding over the recent dismissal of Fire Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran, who last year wrote and distributed a self-published book that espoused anti-gay views.”
* Did a “Muslim-free” gun range in Arkansas also exclude Hindus?
* Easily this week’s most off-the-wall religion story: “From Memphis, Tennessee, we have this important news of demon-possessed bus tail lights, thanks to easily upset Christian lady Robin Wilkins, who saw a star pattern in the LED taillights of a school bus. She decided it was a Satanic pentagram just like on a heavy metal record, and took her concerns to the local teevee station. Which aired them, of course, because why wouldn’t they?”