The Pennsylvania House of Representatives are at it yet again…
First it was The Year of the Bible followed by Prayer Month, The Year of Religious Diversity, an attempt to remove anonymity from individuals engaging in lawsuits seeking to uphold the separation of church and state, National Fast Day, and now House Resolution No. 306 which seeks to declare May 6th through the 12th American Religious History Week.
HR 306 is a long-winded resolution which claims that religious faith has been important throughout the history of the United States. Noted within the document are instances of governmental entities recognizing religion, religious beliefs, and religious faith: the Supreme Court had recognized that the United States is a nation of religious people, a 1774 Congress session had requested a minister open a session with prayer and Bible reading, The Liberty Bell is named after a Bible verse, a 1782 Congress session pursued to print a Bible, etc.
The information presented within this resolution may reflect the fact that religion has been important throughout the history of the United States, but Pennsylvanians may wonder why members of the House of Representatives would spend time researching the impact of religion in American life, present information in House Resolution No. 306, and end the document with a perplexing paragraph diverging from the preceding text that “The House of Representatives reject, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our nation’s public buildings and educational resources.” Is this a worthwhile endeavor for Pennsylvania lawmakers?
While religion may have been important to American people (and still is), what business does government have in getting involved with religious declarations on “public buildings” and in “educational resources?” Does not the Pennsylvania constitution stipulate that religion is a matter of citizen’s own consciences and that law may not give preference pertaining to religious establishments or modes of worship?
The House of Representatives — in noting the presence of religion throughout American history — do not include mentions of Islam, Hinduism, and other religions which may be ‘minority religions’ in Pennsylvania, but rather privilege Judeo-Christian modes of religious thought over differing views concerning religion.
I wonder, would the House of Representatives be willing to include references to Islamic religious beliefs on “public buildings” and in “educational resources?” Shall monuments to Krishna be erected outside courthouses next to Ten Commandments memorials? Since religion ought not be privileged over non-religion, shall the House of Representatives work on erecting a monument to Bertrand Russell commemorating — in addition to his other works — the publishing of “Why I am Not a Christian?” If Judeo-Christian religious beliefs are to be recognized, why ought not other religious beliefs and even atheistic thinkers be recognized?
Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives should simply remove themselves from recognition of religion. Leave matters of religion to individuals’ consciences. Cease the ridiculous resolutions, prevent pandering prayers, and recuse from religion. Lawmakers should, as the Freedom From Religion Foundation would say, ‘get off their knees and get to work.’
What are others saying?
Andrew Seidel of the Freedom From Religion Foundation weighs in.
Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta weighs in.