Louisiana legislators are taking the term “Bible Belt” to a whole new level. The state’s House of Representatives will vote on a bill later this week to make the Holy Bible the state’s official book.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Thomas Carmody, a Republican from Shreveport, submitted the legislation on March 10 on behalf of Randy Dill, a constituent who has wanted to make the Bible the state's official book since 1988 but couldn't find a legislator to support the issue until Carmody took up his cause.
In his original legislation, Carmody sought to make the oldest edition of the Bible in the Louisiana State Museum system become the official state symbol. However, he changed the bill’s language, and now, if it becomes law, it would make the entirety of the generic King James Version of the Bible become the state's official book.
“The Holy Bible would be appropriate for the state of Louisiana,” he told the Advocate.
The legislation cleared the House Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee in an 8-5 vote on Thursday, but not before stoking some controversy.
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The Times-Picayune reported that some legislators are worried the proposal isn’t inclusive enough to accommodate the different Bibles used by various religious communities. For example, the King James Version of the Bible isn’t the preferred text for the Roman Catholic Church, which is one of the state’s largest denominations.
Other lawmakers are worried that the bill could expose the state to lawsuits from citizens who aren’t Christian. Rep. Ebony Woodruff, a Democrat, tried to make the measure more inclusive with a proposed amendment to have “all books of faith” become the official state book. But that proposal failed in a 5-8 vote.
Carmody, who said the bill isn’t about establishing an official religion, told the paper he “would certainly be against” an amendment that would make “all books of faith” be a group of official state books.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana said the measure will discriminate against Louisianans of minority faith. “The bill will create more problems than it will solve by telling some Louisianans that their belief system is not fully equal,” the nonprofit told KTAL.