Holy Bible Could Become Louisiana's Official Book

Lawmakers have proposed a bill that would make the Bible the state's official book, but critics say it is unconstitutional and would open Louisiana up to legal challenges.

The "Good Book" could become the official book of Louisiana if a bill sent to the state's legislature passes in a vote that could come as early as this week.

The Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 8-5 last week to forward a measure that would make the Holy Bible the state's official book. It is scheduled to come to a vote in the full body sometime in the next several days.

A mix of Republicans and Democrats moved the measure forward, which would designate the "oldest edition of the Holy Bible in the Louisiana State Museum system as the official book.

Initially, lawmakers had proposed the King James version of the Bible as the official book, but that met with objections from some in the legislature who thought it might alienate Catholics, among others, who do not use the King James text.

The Times-Picayune writes:

"A few committee members fought the bill vehemently, saying the legislation was likely to upset some citizens who are not Christian and open the state up to legal challenges.

"'I am so bothered by this bill that I just called my pastor. My pastor just said that he thinks we are going to have a legal problem,' said Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, who voted against the legislation.

"Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey, tried to amend the bill to declare 'all books of faith' the official state books of Louisiana, but the proposal failed 5-8. When asked if he would be open to making 'all books of faith' a group of official state books, [Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, sponsor of the bill] was fairly adamant in his opposition.

"'I would certainly be against that amendment,' he said."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, which contends that the measure violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, 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 state ACLU says.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.