Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pennsylvania Resolution No. 535 "Year of the Bible"

In a move which is not only antithetical to the ideals of the United States of America’s Constitution and to William Penn’s pluralistic vision for Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania General Assembly adopted House Resolution 535 by an unanimous vote of 193-0. I could reiterate it here, but let’s just post it verbatim so it can be seen in all its unconstitutional glory.

The General Assembly ofPennsylvania  
House Resolution No. 535, Session of 2012
Declaring 2012 as the“Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania. 
WHEREAS, The Bible, the word of God, has made a unique
contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and
blessed nation and people; and
WHEREAS, Deeply held religious convictions springing from the
holy scriptures led to the early settlement of our country; and
WHEREAS, Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil
government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, Many of our great national leaders, among them
 President Washington, President Jackson, President Lincoln,
 President Wilson and President Reagan, paid tribute to the
influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as
 exemplified by the words of President Jackson that the Bible is
“the rock on which our Republic rests”; and
WHEREAS, The history of our country clearly illustrates the
value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the scriptures in
the lives of individuals, families and societies; and
WHEREAS, This nation now faces great challenges that will
test it as it has never been tested before; and
WHEREAS, Renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through
holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people;
therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives declare 2012 as
the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania in recognition of both
the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and
nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of
the holy scriptures

193-0. Not a single legislator with principle. Cowards. All three of this blog’s contributors were born in Pennsylvania. Adam I still live here in different cities. This does not represent us. Not in any way. Let me be clear for our Christian family, friends, and neighbors: if the Resolution somehow banned religion and banned the Bible I would stand alongside you to protect your rights and ensure the state does not attempt to remove your freedom of religion, thought, and personal belief. I don’t have to agree with it, but it is your right to believe whatever you want with the obvious caveats that we, as a society, have adopted. I personally know Christians that were very offended by this and do not accept it. We all, religious and irreligious, need to speak up when our representatives fail us and the ideals of our Republic.

I won’t bother pointing out the specific problems with this Resolution. Most of the readers here probably understand why this is unjust. Besides FFRF is on the case and has written a response to the Speaker of the House SamSmith and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody.

Reader and Guestposter Nick, also a Pennsylvanian, forwarded me a letter that he wrote and sent to his representative. I thought it was well written and constructive so I asked him for permission to incorporate it into this post so fellow Pennsylvanians, secular and religious, have a template letter to email or send to their legislator. It is posted below and I have included a link to Google Docs template.

Representative Reed, 
I am writing you today concerning the passing of House Resolution 535, passed 193-0 on January 24, 2012.  
As a life-long citizen of Pennsylvania, and an eight year resident of District 62, I feel that this resolution is inherently discriminatory, and skates the fine edge of constitutionality.  While not a law, and therefore not compulsory to action, it may pass the Lemon Test.  This does not change the fact that it sends a very poor message to the citizens of our District, Commonwealth, and our fellow States.  The language of this Resolution does not even make an attempt to be non-sectarian, let alone secular and inclusive.  For example:
"WHEREAS, The Bible, the word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people..."
"WHEREAS, Renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people..."
This is a clear endorsement of not only religion, but a specific religion; Christianity. No other tradition refers to its "holy scriptures" as the "Bible".  It is an insult to those who do not follow this particular religion by insinuating that we cannot be moral, upstanding citizens.  In fact, it would claim that we are the problem.  You have only to look at countries that have adopted inclusive and secular government to see how this is false; i.e. Sweden, Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.  
In addition, there are blatant falsehoods in HR 535.
"WHEREAS, Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.."
While the Declaration ofIndependence does mention a Creator, the Constitution of the United States does not.  The sole reference to religion in the Constitution is Article VI, par. 3:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
This, of course, is indirect opposition to Sections 3 and 4 of our 1967 Constitution of the Commonwealth.
In addition, the ideas upon which our system of government is based are to be found nowhere in the Bible.  If you can find references to democracy, powers derived from the governed, or equality under the law, I would be glad to read them.
Our nation was foundedand established by people of varied religious and political opinion, as well as considerable strengths and weaknesses.  But they produced a set of documents that were a product of the Enlightenment, not the Bible.  There is much more Locke, than Luke, in the Constitution.
I hope that you will see that this Resolution is in direct conflict with the founding principles of this nation, and as such it should be moved to discard it.  I look forward to your response on the matter.
Sincerely and Cordially,
Nicholas Posey
For those of you that are Pennsylvania citizens I urge you to write your legislators. You can say whatever you want. You obviously do not have to use this template word for word or at all. I know I have a few tweaks to make, but please do not sit on the sidelines thinking it is all useless. That is how we are marginalized further by the fundamentalists and extremists. They do not have the numbers, but they have political power. This is a direct result of moderate and liberal believers and apathetic non-believers just sitting by and allowing it to happen.

Find your PennsylvaniaState Representative here.

Find your PennsylvaniaState Senator here.


Andy said...

WHEREAS, Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil
government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution of the United States;

I think Biblical teachings are more useful to theocrats than people who believe in equality and democracy.

Nick said...

Here's Reed's reply:


Thank you for your comments about HR 535, the "Year of the Bible" resolution. While many may agree that our system of government sets forth the separation of church and state, I do not agree that the resolution endangers that separation. As a bit of background, that resolution is modeled on a Congressional declaration making 1983 the "Year of the Bible" at the federal level. This particular resolution was advanced through the House under Rule 35 as a "noncontroversial" bill, meaning that it would not have been considered if any member had objected. It passed with a vote of 193-0 in a chamber consisting of members with a variety of faith backgrounds and religions.

To me, the resolution recognizes the importance of the Bible, through its myriad translations and faith interpretations, in the development of our nation's unique legal and cultural heritage.

I do appreciate your point about there being "much more Locke, than Luke, in the Constitution." How could one deny that influence, when the phrase "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" is lifted nearly verbatim from Locke? However, I believe that Biblical concepts certainly inform what our citizens expect from the social contract. Many of our great social movements and reform efforts have been inspired by scriptural teachings and drew upon religious imagery to advance their cause. For better or worse, that influence often influenced both sides of a great debate: rebels and loyalists during the American Revolution; abolitionists and secessionists during the Civil War; and the Civil Rights movement and resistors to integration during the 1960s.

On the cultural side, the literary importance of the Bible cannot be overstated--prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote an article last year placing the King James Bible among Shakespeare's works as the most important literature in the English language. For much of our nation's history, the Bible was the book on which most individuals learned to read.

Understanding that we likely will continue to disagree on this subject, I do appreciate you taking the time to express your thoughts and opinion on the subject.

Best Regards,
Dave Reed