Tennessee lawmakers have just knowingly passed a bill that is unconstitutional, even ignoring legal counsel to do so.
Time was when state lawmakers held their oath of office in the highest regard, and never would knowingly pass legislation that they knew to be illegal or unconstitutional. Those days are over.
Case in point: The Tennessee House this morning passed a bill declaring the Christian bible to be the official state book. Retired Pastor Jerry Sexton, who is also State Rep. Jerry Sexton, has been pushing his bill since February. Today, HB 615 passed, 55-38.
"The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book," the bill reads. "This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it."
The public welfare?
Tennessee lawmakers might want to actually turn their attention to the public welfare. The "Volunteer State," as it's nicknamed, ranks as the 45th worst state in the nation for health, with just five states worse. It is the sixth-worst state in the nation for bullying. It is the fourth-worst state for voter turnout. It ranks 41st in child homelessness. And number nine in food insecurity. I could go on, but clearly lawmakers in Tennessee aren't troubled by any of these statistics.
Rep. Sexton, whose Facebook page says he is the owner of Sexton Furniture Manufacturing, is on the board of his sister's non-profit that gives out bibles to children at Christmas.
The House lawmakers were counseled by none other than Tennessee Attorney General Herb Slatery, who advised them that "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.'"
On Thursday, the Tennessee Senate will also vote on a companion bill sponsored by, yes, another pastor, Sen. Steve Southerland.
Now, about those issues of child homelessness, healthcare, food insecurity, bullying...