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Lawmaker pulls bill to make Bible Louisiana's official book

A lawmaker who sought to designate the Bible as the official state book of Louisiana has dropped the bill amid an uproar over the proposal.
A Bible study at Barataria Baptist Church in Lafitte, La.
A Bible study at Barataria Baptist Church in Lafitte, La.

A lawmaker who sought to designate the Holy Bible as the official state book of Louisiana has nixed his plan amid an uproar over the proposal. 

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's original bill sought to make a specific copy of the King James Bible housed in the Louisiana Library System the state book, but lawmakers amended the legislation in committee to designate simply any copy of the Holy Bible. The legislation passed out of the Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs earlier this month, with only a handful of Democrats opposing the bill. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana strongly opposed the bill, and the group welcomed Carmody's decision to scrap it. 

"Louisiana has far bigger problems to address than using religion as a tool to discriminate," ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman said in a statement to msnbc. "Pulling the bill was the right thing to do to keep Louisiana inclusive and welcoming of everyone who lives here.

Democratic state Rep. Wesley Bishop told The Advocate before the legislation was pulled that he was concerned the legislation could inspire a lawsuit from opponents.

“You cannot separate Christianity from the Bible,” Bishop said. “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.”

But a handful of legal scholars quoted by The Times-Picayune doubted that any legal challenges could have been successful, since the designation of "official state book" is largely symbolic. 

"It's not like a government-sponsored prayer at a public meeting, or a government-sponsored religious monument in a particular place, which burdens the particular individuals who attend that meeting or frequent that place. This would just sit there in the statute books, affecting everyone in Louisiana more or less equally. That often means that no one can challenge it in court," Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia law professor, told the paper.