It seems like every state has it’s own official bird, bug or flower. One thing they don’t all have, however, is an official state book. Louisiana didn’t, but has decided to change that.
The book the legislature is proposing? The Bible.
Yes, the state legislature is going to take that whole “government should not establish an official religion” prohibition head on and declare the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana. According to HB 503 (as proposed): “There shall be a state book. The official state book shall be the Holy Bible published by Johannes Prevel…which is the oldest edition of the Holy Bible in the Louisiana State Museum system.” The proposal passed House committee and will now go for a full vote, with one change — rather than one specific Bible in a museum, the bill now states that the King James version of the Bible is the official state book. An attempt to make it “all books of faith” failed.
The ACLU is already discussing a possible challenge if the bill is signed into law, which could seem like a huge waste of resources for a struggling state. Instead, I’d like to suggest five books that Louisiana could use instead:
1) 12 Years a Slave: Solomon Northup’s harrowing story, first published in 1853, has becomes a part of the tapestry and history of the state. The story is not only that of Louisiana during slave times, but was brought back to the public eye by a Louisiana University teacher eager to “rescue Northup’s memoir from obscurity.” “[Sue Eakin] wrote her master’s thesis on ‘Twelve Years a Slave,’ and, in 1968, published the first modern edition,” said The New Yorker. “But her research continued. She contacted descendants of Northup and Epps, and helped preserve a side house on Epps’s former property.” Surely the state would like to pay homage to such a rich historical narrative?
2) Satchmo: Louis Armstrong was the King of Jazz, and in this story of his early years, Armstrong tells in his own words of his struggles with poverty, war and a love of music that only grew as time passed. As one of Louisiana’s most famous native sons and a man who truly shaped an age of music, his autobiography would be the quintessential state book if the legislature chose it.
3) Interview With a Vampire: Ok, maybe the book doesn’t have the gravitas of the Holy Bible. What it is, instead, according to Business Insider, is the most famous book in which the story is set in Louisiana. Considering the fame of its author and the tourism inspired by her series, perhaps she deserves a little state gratitude as well?
4) Aesop‘s Fables: Let’s be frank, instituting the Bible as the official state book is nothing but an attempt to codify one particular religious belief above all others. If someone suggested a different specific religion’s holy book, it would be a madhouse of opposition and fear of religious persecution. So, if you really think that the state needs to pick a “rulebook,” can I suggest Aesop’s Fables. After all, a person can learn a great deal from those stories. Especially, might I suggest a closer look at the one about the Golden Rule?
5) The Pocket Constitution: Whether or not this book is made an official state book, I suggest every lawmaker who votes in favor of the King James Bible get themselves a copy of the Pocket Constitution, too. They are definitely going to need it when the lawsuit comes.
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