A bipartisan trio of lawmakers in Mississippi has introduced separate bills calling for the Bible to be named the “state book,” the Associated Press reported.
“The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people,” state Rep. Tom Miles (D) said. “They could read in there about love and compassion.”
Miles and fellow Democratic state Rep. Michael Evans sponsored one of the bills, saying they have amassed support from more than 20 of their colleagues, enhancing its chances for approval. The other bill was introduced by state Rep. Tracy Arnold (R), who is also a Christian church pastor.
Supporters said neither bill would require residents to read the Bible, as the “state book” designation would be symbolic. Evans told AL.com he thought of his bill following a meeting with constituents.
“We were talking about it, and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible,” he said.
However, an in-law of William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize-winning author who was a native of Oxford, has criticized the bills.
“It’s impossible to conceive of a state abandoning its literary heritage like that,” said Larry Wells, who was married to Faulkner’s niece, Dean Faulkner Wells, before she died. “What would Faulkner and [Eudora] Welty and Shelby Foote and Richard Wright think? I think they would collectively link arms and say, ‘Go back to kindergarten, Legislature.’”
The bills’ supporters say they are not trying to force their religion upon the rest of the state. Miles compared his proposal to a bill passed last year that added the phrase, “In God we trust” to the state seal.
“This isn’t any more out there than that,” Miles told Reuters.