When legislators return from their four-day Easter recess this afternoon, the full House will take up a rather controversial bill—naming “the Holy Bible” as the official state book of Louisiana.
“A constituent contacted me about the fact that we did not have an official state book,” Shreveport representative Thomas Carmody, the bill’s author, told House and Governmental Affairs Committee members. “I had asked him, ‘What official state book would you like for us to try to recognize?’ And he said, ‘I think the Holy Bible would be one that would be very appropriate for the state of Louisiana’.”
Initially the bill designated a particular copy of the Bible—an early 16th century edition, King James Version, housed in the State Library. It is a Protestant version, and Catholics on the committee objected.
“This particular book does not contain the deuterocanonical books, does it?” asked Carencro representative Stephen Ortego. “You know, Tobit and Maccabees, and so forth?”
“No, it is missing some books found in my personal copy, the St. Jerome version,” Carmody responded, speaking of the books Protestants commonly refer to as the Apocrypha.
“Then why not change the bill to say the ‘official’ state book is ‘all versions of the Holy Bible’, period?” asked Ortego.
The measure, HB 503, was amended to do just that, prompting questions on the constitutionality of such a move.
“How do you get around the argument of ‘the separation of church and state’?” asked New Orleans representative Wesley Bishop.
“Because this is not to establish a religion for the state of Louisiana,” Carmody replied.
“But when we adopt the Bible as the book, we’re actually adopting Christianity,” Bishop argued. “You can’t separate Christianity from the Bible!”
Harvey Representative Ebony Woodruff suggested an alternative.
“Would you be open to an amendment to add versions of all books of faith?” Woodruff offered.
“To add all books of faith as being ‘the official book’?” Carmody asked, for clarification.
“Yes, like the Koran, the Torah—for other religions,” Woodruff explained.
“I would certainly not support the amendment. No, ma’am,” Carmody replied.
Warnings were offered that adopting the Bible as an “official” state symbol would result in lawsuits.
“We’re opening up a can of worms,” Colfax Representative Terry Brown stated.
No other state has adopted an “official book”, much less the Bible. And the national media is watching Louisiana’s lawmakers today, as they search their souls and grapple with the question, “Would you vote against the Bible?”