When Del. Elise B. Heinz (D-Arlington) was thumbing through a volume of the Code of Virginia last Year, she came across a section of state law that seemed archaic and unnecessary.

Since Heinz had promised she would try to "take out as much as I put into the Code of Virginia," she decided to sponsor a bill repealing that small, "quaint" section of law.

Heinz now fears that the bill, which has been dubbed the "Bible bill" by State Capitol reporters, may strike a controversial chord among legislators and generate a debate about the place of religion in state government.

The bill would repeal a section of state law adopted in 1920 that requires a person taking an oath of office to place his or her hand on the Bible.

"All I know is that if anyone tried to enforce that, they would be forcing someone to perform a religious act, and under the U.S. Constitution they simply can't do that," Heinz said. "So that . . . comes into . . . a category of things that might just as well be dropped out of the Code; to wit, things you can't enforce."

But Heinz said she has the feeling that some of her colleagues see the measure as "anti-Bible."

Heinz stressed that a major reason she introduced the bill was her "good housekeeping" approach to state law.