Tennessee’s House of Representatives will not make the Holy Bible the official state book after lawmakers defeated the proposal 22-9 on Wednesday, according to The Tennessean newspaper.
The constitutionality of the bill — which was introduced and championed by Republicans in the legislature — was questionable from the start.
“Yes, designating The Holy Bible as the official state book of Tennessee would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the federal Constitution and Article I & 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, which provides that 'no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship,'" the state’s Republican Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote Monday in an official opinion on the bill.
The bill wouldn't have become law unless it was passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, who had expressed concerns about the legislation but hadn’t said whether he’d veto it or not.
Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris also opposed the bill when it came up for discussion in committee. "I sure hope it won't pass. I think it'll be a dark day for Tennessee if it does," he said, according to The Tennessean.
The vote represented one more legislative battle over religion.
In Indiana and Arkansas, critics warned that religious freedom legislation in those states would sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians. After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed his state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, a wave of criticism followed and he ultimately called for a "fix" to the law. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also called on his state's legislature to tweak a religious freedom bill before he signed it into law.