Mississippi Politicians Accused of 'Pandering to Christians' with Bible Bill

Legislation that would have made the Bible the official state book of Mississippi was nothing but another case of “politicians pandering to Christians at the expense of everyone who is a non-Christian," Sam Grover, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., told PJM.

The sponsor of the proposal that Grover decided was a classic case of pandering, Rep. Tom Miles (D), said Mississippi House Bill 840, which died in committee Feb. 23, was intended to “designate the Holy Bible as the official state book of Mississippi; and for related purposes,” and nothing else.

Miles said forcing the Christian religion on anyone in Mississippi was the furthest thing from his mind.

“What we are doing is making a statement that our state, and our state government, would do well to emulate the broad principles that are found in the Bible, including taking care of the poor and the needy among us," Miles said.

"It’s not a bad standard to strive for, and its message has stood the test of time for several thousand years," he added.

Fellow Democrat Rep. Michael Evans, who co-sponsored the legislation, told AL.com the idea of making the Bible the official state book of Mississippi came from conversations with people in his district.

“Me and my constituents, we were talking about it and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible,” Evans said.

Zakiya Summers, the communications director of the Mississippi ACLU, told PJM good intentions and Mississippi aside, House Bill 840 would have violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“It fails to recognize the diversity of Mississippi citizens,”  Summers said. “Lawmakers should not be promoting policies that divide Mississippians along religious lines.”

Grover agreed and said it was the implied intent of the legislation more than the wording of the proposal that was the problem.

“A bill like this is the government trying to take a stand on what religion is preferred. It is trying to say the Bible is better than the Koran, better than other Scriptures that other minority religions might read, or better than what non-religious people might read,” Grover said.

“The point is the government would be endorsing one religion over all others,” he added.

This was not the first time these two Mississippi Democrats have tried to make the Bible the official book of their state. Evans and Miles proposed similar legislation in 2015 that also died in committee. And their idea was not unique. Legislators in Louisiana and Tennessee have also proposed making the Bible the official book of their states. Those proposals also died for lack of support.