The Mississippi legislature has introduced two bills, SB 2179 and HB 386, to make the Holy Bible the state book. The specific version of the Bible is not mentioned, nor is the rationale for the proposal. The bills are nearly identical and they read as follows:
SENATE BILL NO. 2179
AN ACT TO PROVIDE THAT THE HOLY BIBLE SHALL BE THE OFFICIAL STATE BOOK; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. There shall be an Official State Book. The
Official State Book shall be the Holy Bible.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from
and after July 1, 2015
State symbols are meant to represent something about the cultural heritage or history of the area. For example, some of the Mississippi symbols include:
Mississippi State American Folk Dance: square dance
Mississippi State Automobile Museum: The Tupelo Auto Museum
Mississippi State Grand Opera House: Grand Opera House of Meridian
Mississippi State Historical Industrial Museum:
Mississippi Ind. Heritage Museum
Mississippi State Language: English
Mississippi State Motto: “By valor and arms” (Virtute et armis)
Mississippi State Natural Science Museum:
Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Mississippi State Soil: Natchez silt loam
This type of proposal ignores separation of church and state and it is an abuse of power for lawmakers to use their position to launch such a proposal. There is a provision in the United States Constitution called the Establishment Clause that has long been interpreted to be a separation of church and state. The other part of it is the Supremacy Clause, which means that the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land, taking precedence over state provisions:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,…
The Establishment Clause was written by Congressman Fisher Ames in 1789, who derived it from discussions in the First Congress of various drafts that would become the amendments comprising the Bill of Rights. This clause is immediately followed by the Free Exercise Clause, which states:
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
These two clauses make up what are called the “Religion Clauses” of the First Amendment.
The Establishment Clause is a limitation placed upon the United States Congress preventing it from passing legislation respecting an establishment of religion. The second prohibition inherent from this specified prohibition is no preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another; an aim desired by the Founding Fathers necessary to accommodate all of the many denominations in the United States.
Because religion is a choice for people, these bills are a sneaky way to ram the religious preferences of a very few down the throats of the passing public, without bothering to consent with people- even those who already identify as deeply religious. It is in essence using an elected office position to proselytize. In addition, the proposal ignores literary giants whose birthplace is Mississippi, such as Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner.
Jimmie E. Gates, writes in The Clarion Ledger opinion page:
It may be a worthy idea that people want the good book as the state official book, but wouldn’t it be better for our legislators to leave the book of religion to religion?
It’s sort of like someone wanting to dictate their religion to others.
One legislator said last week he isn’t trying to force religion — or even reading — on anyone, but he sees the Bible as a good guide for promoting kindness and compassion.
Each person’s religious beliefs must be individual.
You don’t have to wear it on your sleeve. It must come from the heart.