Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible the official state book.
The bill's sponsors said the measure was meant to honor the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state. But its opponents argue it was unconstitutional or trivialized the Bible by equating it to other symbols like the state insect or rock.
"In addition to the constitutional issues with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text," Gov. Haslam, a Republican, said in a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell.
"If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn't be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance," he continued. "If we are recognizing the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book.
"I strongly disagree with those who are trying to drive religion out of the public square. All of us should and must bring our deepest beliefs to the places we are called, including government service," Gov. Haslam added.
"However, that is very different from the governmental establishment of religion that our founders warned against and our Constitution prohibits," He concluded.
Had Haslam signed the bill into law, Tennessee would have been the first state to designate the Bible as its official book.
But the fight to make the Bible Tennessee's state book may not be over yet. The Legislature does not adjourn for the year until next week. That means supporters still have time to override the veto.