First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of Louisiana, which very nearly officially endorsed the Christian Bible in an unusual way.
Most states have all kinds of official declarations honoring things that make their state unique. Go just about anywhere in the U.S. and you’ll find an official state song, official state bird, official state flower, etc. South Carolina recently took up the task of choosing an official state fossil, though that proved to be more difficult than expected.
But in Louisiana, several state lawmakers decided the Pelican State needed an official state book – and in this case, they chose a Christian Bible. This week, however, the lawmaker championing the proposal scrapped his plan.
Republican state Rep. Thomas Carmody dropped the proposal shortly before it was scheduled to go before the full state House of Representatives Monday evening for a debate and vote, saying that the bill had become a distraction, according to The Times-Picayune.
Carmody had originally chosen a specific copy of the King James Bible to serve as the official state book, but “lawmakers amended the legislation in committee to designate simply any copy of the Holy Bible.”
Because if you’re going to designate one religion’s holy book for official state sponsorship, it’s best to be accommodating.
As we discussed last week, state Rep. Rep. Wesley Bishop (D) warned his colleagues before the vote about possible litigation: “You cannot separate Christianity from the Bible. 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.”
Indeed, Carmody made brief remarks explaining his decision to pull his proposal, and noted that the plan to endorse the Christian Bible “causes some constitutional problems.”
For now, it appears those problems have gone away.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* There’s a new religious category within the U.S. military: “More than two years after first making his request, Army Maj. Ray Bradley can now be known as exactly what he is: a humanist in the U.S. military…. Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday (April 22) that the ‘preference code for humanist’ became effective April 12 for all members of the Army.”
* An interesting story out of Alabama: “Last week, Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that women who use chemical substances during pregnancy may be charged with child endangerment. The case, Hicks v. Alabama, has been controversial due to its possible implications for abortion access. Now more controversy abounds, given new evidence that at least one justice based the ruling on his personal religious beliefs. In his concurring opinion, the court’s chief justice, Roy Moore, peppered his arguments with biblical references and promoted the debunked notion that American law has uniquely Christian roots.”
* The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer told his listeners this week that “there are consequences” for those making “foolish declarations.” The irony was rich.
* An awful accident in Italy: “A man was crushed to death when a giant crucifix dedicated to Pope John Paul II collapsed and fell on him, ITV News reports. The accident came just days before a historic canonization that will see the late pope declared a saint. The 98-foot-high wooden and concrete cross fell during a ceremony in the Italian Alpine village of Cevo on Thursday, killing 21-year-old student Marco Gusmini. Another man was taken to hospital” (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the tip).