NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The unexpected legislative journey of making the Bible the official book of Tennessee took it to the state Senate Thursday, and not any further, this year.
The Senate voted to “refer” the bill back to the chamber’s judiciary committee to debate questions about its constitutionality.
Senators then refused a request from sponsor Sen. Steve Southerland to re-open the judiciary committee, which has closed for the year as lawmakers attempt to finish their yearly session.
State senate Republican leaders who had been outspoken in their criticism of the bill said the measure needed more debate after the Tennessee Attorney General said it may be an unconstitutional violation of church and state.
The attorney general’s opinion indicated that his office would not defend the bill against lawsuits.
“I think the Senate sponsor of the Bible bill has said ‘Well, that is just one man’s opinion,’ so how accurate is it, how important is it needs to be discussed,” said Senator Republican Majority leader Mark Norris.
“This is an unfortunate diversion from job one for us, which is to have a budget.”
Both House and Senate members plan to start debating the $33 billion state budget later on Thursday.
The Bible bill will remain in the judiciary committee until it can be considered when lawmakers open their 2016 session.