Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Make the Bible the State Book

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 14 2014 9:15 PM

Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Make the Bible the State Book

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Louisiana lawmakers look to make the Bible the state book.

Photo by TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Louisiana’s state flower is the magnolia. The state’s symbolic drink of choice is milk. What Louisiana is missing, however, is a state book. State lawmakers came up with a solution to that problem last week however, introducing a bill that declares the Bible as Louisiana’s book of choice.

The idea was put to the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee in the state house, which approved the measure by an 8-5 vote, advancing the bill to the full House. House Bill 503 was submitted by Republican State Rep. Thomas Carmody and proclaims “there shall be an official state book” in Louisiana and “the official state book shall be the Holy Bible.”

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Carmody’s choice of symbolic state sanctioned reading proved to be problematic for some Democrats on the committee, according to the Advocate. Their beef? Carmody’s selection of a King James version of the good book. Here’s how that sticking point unfolded via the Advocate:

[It] brought immediate objection from Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, who said his Catholic Bible contains some books that aren’t in the King James version. “A lot of people believe in a Bible that has things different than what’s in there, not just Catholics. It’s also Orthodox,” Ortego said. “Why not put all versions of the Bible? If there’s one, what are we saying about the rest of the people?” added Rep. Robert Billiot, D-Westwego.

Yes, what about the rest of the people. Lest the committee’s back-and-forth on the issue be construed as missing the old-growth forest they were wandering through while quibbling about what trees they liked best, Rep. Ebony Woodruff entered the fray.

“You don’t think it’s offensive to some citizens of this state to select the Bible as the official state book?” asked Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey. Woodruff suggested Carmody add “all books of faith like the Quran, the Torah.” Carmody said he thought the Bible was “the appropriate symbol.” Ortego proposed and the committee approved getting rid of the specific King James version in favor of the general Holy Bible.

And so it was. But, what of that pesky church and state not comingling issue? Not a problem. Carmody points out, the Advocate reports, “the state can have more than one state book, just as it has more than one official jelly.” "This is not about establishing an official religion," Carmody told the Times-Picayune.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana is predictably unimpressed. The organization says the bill "represents the use of religion to discriminate against Louisianians of minority faiths or who do not adhere to that particular book as part of their belief system. The bill will create more problems than it will solve by telling some Louisianians that their belief system is not full equal."

The bill will go before the full Louisiana state house later this week, according to KTAL.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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