BATON ROUGE, La. — Lawmakers are moving ahead with a proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book, despite concerns the bill would land the Legislature in court.
A House municipal committee advanced the bill Thursday with an 8-5 vote, sending it to the full House for debate.
Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn't designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.
"It's not to the exclusion of anyone else's sacred literature," he told the House committee. Again, later he said, "This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana."
Lawmakers who voted against the measure said it raises questions about whether Louisiana would be violating the separation of church and state.
Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, said as a preacher's son, he loved the concept. But he said as a lawyer, he thinks the bill has problems. He voted against the measure.
"I think we're going to open ourselves up to a lawsuit. You can't adopt the Bible and not adopt Christianity," he said.
Other lawmakers objected to Carmody's proposal to use a specific version of the Bible, so that language was stripped from the bill before it was passed.
Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, said she didn't feel qualified to "vote on anything that's related to the Bible," so she voted against it.
Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey, said adopting the Bible as the state's official book could be offensive to people who live in the state and who aren't Christian.
"You're OK with offending some of the citizens of this state?" she asked.
"It's not meant to be offensive," Carmody replied. "There's no requirement that they would have to follow this particular text."
Voting for the bill were 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.
Voting against the bill were Bishop, Norton, Woodruff and Reps. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, and Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, chairman of the committee.
House Bill 503 can be found at www.legis.la.gov
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