CHARLESTON - A bill that would designate the Holy Bible as the official state book of West Virginia was introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates Monday.
If passed by the Republican-majority legislature, House Bill 2568, which has 11 sponsors, would add the Holy Bible to the list of state symbols that includes rhododendrons, black bears, golden delicious apples and four songs, including John Denver's "Country Roads."
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee by House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.
Among the bill's sponsors is Del. Ken Hicks, D-Wayne, who said he thought it was a good idea to at least consider having the Bible as an official state book.
"I think a lot of the biblical principles are the same principles that the state was founded on," Hicks said. "The Bible is a book that's been around for thousands of years. A lot of principles from the Bible are what modern-day and contemporary law is based on."
There currently is no official state book for West Virginia.
Hicks said he thought the state could have multiple official books, not limiting it to just the Bible. When asked about concerns as to whether the proposal would indicate an official endorsement of one religion over others by the state, Hicks said he hoped that people who were concerned would contact their legislators to let their feelings be known.
"Not everybody believes in the same religion, and I think you should pursue the religion you're comfortable with," said Hicks, who said he was a practicing Christian. "Not everybody has to read (the Bible). It's not forcing it on anybody. People do elect legislators to pass certain bills and laws that they want, and if they find something that's offensive to them, they need to tell their delegate."
Del. Jeff Eldridge, D-Lincoln, is the lead sponsor of the bill. In addition to Hicks, the co-sponsors of the bill are Dels. Ralph Rodighiero, D-Logan; Zack Maynard, R-Lincoln; Justin Marcum, D-Mingo; Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; Mark Dean, R-Mingo; and Steve Westfall, R-Jackson.
In April 2016, Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible that state's official book after the GOP-majority General Assembly approved the measure. Similar measures failed to pass in the Louisiana State Legislature in 2014 and in the Mississippi Legislature in 2015.