NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Despite concerns that giving the holy Bible the same status as a salamander is a little tawdry and could be unconstitutional, Tennessee lawmakers are forging ahead with plans to make it the official state book – something at least two other states have failed to do.

The Tennessee measure has moved swiftly through the legislative process and could be on the House and Senate floors as early as next week. Similar proposals to make the Bible the state book failed in Mississippi this year and in Louisiana last year.

But Republican Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown, the sponsor of the Tennessee proposal, said he believes it has a strong chance to pass. “It’s got 19 co-signers on it; it takes 17 people to vote for the bill,” he said Thursday

One of the main concerns is whether the proposal would meet separation of church and state provisions in the federal and state constitutions. The Tennessee Constitution says “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.” Lawmakers are awaiting a legal opinion from the state’s attorney general.

However, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said the proposal would violate the state and federal constitutions.

“The Bible should not be used as a political football,” she said. “The First Amendment makes it clear that government cannot favor one religion over another and politicians should not try to influence what people believe by turning their personal religious viewpoints into law.”

Tennessee’s official state symbols already include the tomato as the state fruit, the tulip poplar as the state tree, the Tennessee cave salamander as the state amphibian and the square dance as the state folk dance. The state also has several state songs such as “Tennessee Waltz” and “Rocky Top.” All are listed in the Tennessee Blue Book, considered the definitive almanac of Tennessee state government.

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