ASHVILLE — A bill to make the Holy Bible the official book of Tennessee was approved in a legislative committee Tuesday.

With a 7-1 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown.

While the measure received approval in the House with a 55-38 vote last year, the effort was curtailed in the Senate, which opted to send it to committee.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery opposed the bill last year. The attorney general said the legislation violates both state and federal constitutions.

While speaking to the committee on Tuesday, Southerland cited a 2005 court case which he said he believed would show the legislation would not be unconstitutional.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam opposed efforts to make the Holy Bible the state's official book during the 2015 legislative session. (Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam opposed efforts to make the Holy Bible the state's official book during the 2015 legislative session. (Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP)

Senate leaders, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, previously expressed hesitancy to adopt the measure. When the bill was discussed last year, Ramsey said it would be fiscally irresponsible to have the state spend tax dollars to defend the legislation in court.

Tennessee's Bible bill attracted national attention last year because relatively few states have taken similar steps. Mississippi lawmakers considered a Bible bill this year but the effort died in February. Last year, officials in Louisiana took up their version of the Bible bill but it failed for lack of support.

With the judiciary's committee action, the measure heads to the calendar committee, which will decide when to send the bill back the Senate floor.

Several members of the committee said they believed it was important that the entire Senate had the opportunity to take up the bill.

The move to make the Bible the state's official book comes a month after Tennessee lawmakers approved a measure to make the Barrett M82 sniper rifle the official state rifle.

Follow Joel Ebert on Twitter: @joelebert29