Legislation that would make the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana cleared the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs with a vote of 8-5 Thursday afternoon. It will now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, originally filed a bill to declare a specific copy of the Bible, found in the Louisiana State Museum system, the official state book. But by the time he presented the proposal to the committee, he changed language in his legislation to make the generic King James version of the Bible, a text used worldwide, the official state book.
Carmody said his intention was not to mingle religion with government functions. "This is not about establishing an official religion," he said.
Still, Legislators became concerned that the proposal wasn't broad enough and did not reflect the breadth of Bibles used by religious communities. In particular, some lawmakers worried that singling out the King James version of the Bible would not properly reflect the culture of Louisiana. The Catholic Church, for example, does not use the King James text.
"Let's make this more inclusive of other Christian faiths, more than just the ones that use the King James version," said Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro.
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, Carmody was fairly adamant in his opposition.
"I would certainly be against that amendment," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana already has concerns about the bill. "[The official state book] ought to be one that relates to the history of Louisiana and not one that is going to discriminate against a large number of Louisianans," said Majorie Esman, executive director of the organization. Esman declined to say whether the ACLU would fight the Holy Bible designation in court if it became law.
Michael Weil, who heads up the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, said his organization -- which is cultural and not religious in nature -- hasn't take a stance on the bill. But the legislation gives him some personal pause.
"I think the state should consider a text that is not religious," he said.
Rep. Thomas Carmody, Nola.com/The Times-Picayune 22 Comments
[4/18/2014 3:11:47 AM]
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