State resolution disobeys spirit of First Amendment

It’s often said that Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything, that their intense hatred for one another makes passing even the most trivial legislation an uphill battle. However, on Jan. 23, both the Democratic and Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives managed to unanimously agree on something. Surely this agreement was a sign that our state leaders were coming together for something important — funding public transit, for instance.

Unfortunately, this faith was misplaced. In its 193–0 vote, the House passed Resolution 535, declaring that 2012 shall be known as the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania. This legislation blatantly disregards the spirit of the First Amendment.

The House laid out its rationale in the resolution. Much of this reasoning is dedicated to explaining the historical importance of the Bible in the development of the United States. While it’s impossible to disregard the impact that Christianity has in American history, it does not explain why 2012 should be any more the Year of the Bible than 1912, or 1860, or 1776, or any year since the Christian Biblical canon was finalized around 400 C.E.

The history is not, of course, the real reason the House passed its resolution.

The text declares that the Bible is the “word of God,” that “renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through holy scripture” will restore America’s strength, and finally that there is a “national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.”

The House doesn’t say which version of the Bible Americans should be studying or which holy scriptures they should be applying. However, we suspect that the vote would not have been unanimous had a representative suggested that Americans read and apply the teachings of the Qur’an — many of which coincide with teachings in the Christian Bible and the lessons of every other major religion for the last few thousand years.

We doubt the House would even pass a resolution in support of one of the principal tenets of these religions by declaring 2012 to be a “Year of Peace.”

The Pennsylvania House opposed the spirit of the First Amendment by passing this bill. Instead of declaring that all Americans need to study the Bible and renew their faith in a specific God, Pennsylvania’s legislators might want to consider studying their oaths of office and applying the Constitution of the United States.