Usually the selection of a state bird or state song is not particularly divisive or even notable. The same goes for a state book (though it seems a bit odd to select a single book for a state unless it is written by a native son or daughter). Louisiana however could find itself in court as it moves to make the Bible the state book. Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, proposed the official adoption but insisted that it should not be viewed as any type of state endorsement. It is simply the selection of one faith’s religious book as the official book for the entire state. Who could possibly view that as a state endorsement?
It does seem at times that religious legislators look for any opportunity to entangle government with religion. This seems particularly gratuitous. Indeed, the best defense for the state may be that the selection is really quite meaningless. However, there are presumably some government action — and clearly endorsement — associated with the selection.
A House committee has approved the selection by an 8-5 vote so it will now go to the full House for debate. The concern is that few members want to be seen voting against the Bible. In the meantime, a state that has long been denounced for its lack of funding of key programs, particularly educational programs, would be triggering another costly court fight in its effort to endorse a religious faith.
Carmody insisted that the adoption of the religious book for one faith is “not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature.” Of course, their books would be excluded from the list of official state books but that is not exclusion from . . . well its just not exclusion.
He received bipartisan support for his measure with favorable votes from Reps. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia; Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales; Robert Billiot, D-Westwego; Terry Brown, I-Colfax; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge; Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro; and Tom Willmott, R-Kenner.
The greatest irony is that some opposition has come not in the adoption of the Bible but what version of the Bible would be adopted — potentially triggering an intra-sectarian fight. Will it be the King James version or some other version?
If the Bible is the official state book, there may be demands that it be featured more prominently in Louisiana schools, incorporated into lessons, and even promoted on state sites or campaigns. Then citizens can be exalted to read such passages as John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Carmody in the meantime has continued to express disbelief that anyone would see a constitutional issue or be insulted in any way. After all, he insisted “It’s not meant to be offensive. There’s no requirement that they would have to follow this particular text.” Of course note, he is not seeking to bar you from reading other books. However, if he is successful, there can be only one state book and that is the Bible.
Carmody is a real estate broker and a founding member of the Louisiana Legislative Conservative Coalition.
By the way, if the state were to honor a great Louisiana book (one of my favorites), an obvious choice would be A Confederacy of Dunces by American novelist John Kennedy Toole. It seems as relevant today as in 1980. After all, Carmody may find the views of the main character, Ignatius, rather attractive. Ignatius insisted that “with the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy.” and warned that “[a] firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss.”