Despite litigation concerns, panel advances bill
Louisiana legislators advanced a bill Thursday that would make the Holy Bible the official Louisiana state book, despite concerns the move could prompt litigation.
“You cannot separate Christianity from the Bible,” said state Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, a lawyer and the son of a preacher. “If you adopt the Bible as the official state book, you also adopt Christianity as the state religion ... We are going to open ourselves up to a lawsuit.”
The House Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee voted 8-5 to recommend the legislation to the full House.
State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, countered that naming an official state book doesn’t equate to establishing a state religion, which is specifically prohibited in the U.S. Constitution.
“The Holy Bible would be appropriate for the state of Louisiana,” he said, particularly given the state’s strong religious ties.
House Bill 503 was submitted on behalf of a constituent who had wondered whether there was an official state book, Carmody said.
Carmody sought to designate the Bible, a King James version housed in the State Library of Louisiana, as the official state book.
That 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.
Other legislators said Carmody’s bill was not inclusive of all types of religions practiced by Louisiana residents.
“As an elected official on this committee and in this building, some of my constituents from the city of New Orleans and around the state will find this type of legislation offensive,” said state Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans.
“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.” He said the state can have more than one state book, just as it has more than one official jelly.
Ortego proposed and the committee approved getting rid of the specific King James version in favor of the general Holy Bible.
Voting FOR making the general Holy Bible the official state book (8): State Reps. Ortego, Billiot, Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia; Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales; Terry Brown, No Party-Colfax; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Dalton Honoré, D-Baton Rouge; and Tom Willmott, R-Kenner.
Voting AGAINST the amended HB503 (5): State Reps. Brossett, Woodruff, Bishop, D-New Orleans; Austin Badon, D-New Orleans; and Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport.