Constitution Becomes Harrisburg's Doormat

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Monday, January 30, 2012

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." 
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814


Originally, I had thoughts of composing a post concerning the issue heating up in Rhode Island over atheist Jessica Ahlquist and the removal of a "school prayer" from Cranston High School West's auditorium. I'd read the stories and the judicially dry, but incredibly well-written, 40-page document outlining the court's ruling. Visited Ms. Ahlquist's blog. Read the rude, often hate-filled comments hurled at the young woman in the name of Christianity. 

This is what I was going to write about until I began researching more stories on infractions of the separation of Church and State. There were more stories of religion, making its way into public classroom. Indiana state Senate passed a bill which would grant permission to teach Creationism in its schools. As my gears turned, forming the words I'd write within my head, I was alerted of a new story. One in my own state of Pennsylvania.


That is the headline which leaped from my laptop screen and smacked me in the face. Surely, this was some hoax. An Onion headline of sorts. With a few keystrokes, a click of the "Enter" button, and a split-second later, my hopes for hilarity were dashed. This was not a spoof. This, my friends, is real. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania "unanimously" passed House Resolution No. 535 (text here) declaring 2012 as the "Year of the Bible" in Pennsylvania.

The shear fact that my tax dollars, and the tax dollars of every other Pennsylvanian regardless of religious denomination or absolute lack of belief, went into paying for the time to draft and consider this resolution is an insult in and of itself. 

During a time when the burdens of their constituents and lack of jobs in the state should be at the front of the docket, this is what they're doing in Harrisburg. The educational system is being reduced to shambles. While a multi-billion dollar industry is spilling over our hills and clogging our roads, transforming the landscape, and life as we know it here in Pennsylvania, with little oversight, possible environmental impact, and health issues, our legislature is spending time naming the year on our dime. And this is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to House Resolution No. 535.

It is a blatant disregard to the separation of church and state as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Many representatives, not only in Pennsylvania but across the nation, have been touting their love, adoration, and undying allegiance to this document with renewed gusto over the past few years as evident by movements like the Tea Party. 

However, in the same breath, the Constitution and the original framework of the founding fathers has been trampled and spit upon. They invoke the Constitution, but only in name. They use it to justify an agenda which completely opposes that of the Constitution. 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...

Nuts to that, apparently.

No, the resolution is not law. However, the resolution does promote a singular religion. It stands for the progression of Christianity and, in the same light, denounces all other religions that may be represented within the state by way of alienation. The "Year of the Bible"? Without even asking which version of the Bible they're speaking of, what about the Tanakh or the Bhagavad Gita? What of the Qur'an or, for the sake of diversity, Dianetics

The promotion of any singular religion by any level of government is unconstitutional. Period. The Forefathers had the knowledge of history and the foresight to lay out the separation of the state from the church to avoid imposing upon the rights of individuals regardless of religion. In the seminal case of Engel v. Vitale in 1962, which outlawed prayer in schools, the court had this to say of the Forefathers' beliefs:

By the time of the adoption of the Constitution, our history shows that there was widespread awareness among many Americans of the dangers of a union of Church and State. These people knew, some of them from bitter personal experience, that one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious services... The Constitution was intended to avert a part of this danger by leaving the government of this country in the hands of the people rather than in the hands of any monarch. But this safeguard was not enough. Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs. (source)

We are not, as many seem to believe with searing intensity, a "Christian" nation. Even if the Forefathers were Christian themselves (This is hotly debated. Many were believed to be, at best, Deists. Much of the evidence in their writing and lives suggests this.), it would not make this nation a "Christian" nation anymore than a meal prepared by Richard Dawkins would be an Atheistic dinner.

We are a nation of many beliefs or lack there of. And we all are granted the right, by our Constitution, to practice whichever beliefs we hold free of persecution. It's one of the main reasons we came to this hunk of land in the first place.

The representatives in Harrisburg have crossed a line. They have committed a crime against the U.S. Constitution and against their constituents. There is no reason for this to be taken lightly. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the Constitution and all of the rights it guarantees to the citizens of this country must be upheld. House Resolution No. 535 is a slippery and sickening glimpse into the thought process of those in Harrisburg and it should not go unnoticed.

Religion is a personal choice and an individual's concern alone. And when government dips their pens into the inkwell of faith and personal belief, they breach a wall constructed to keep them out of it for their own good and for our own personal safety. This is not the "Year of the Bible". And this is not the time for any of you sitting in Harrisburg or in Washington to be concerning yourselves with topics that, constitutionally, do not concern you.

The U.S. is hungry. We want to work. We want proper educational systems for our children. We want safety. And we want to know that you're doing everything possible to provide these things for this country using our tax dollars that we fork over every paycheck. The Church does not pay your salary, we do.

****


Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to 
Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802


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Comments (1)

This is a great post! Seriously, you did a wonderful job leaving your own personal beliefs out of it as well. You really captured how ridiculous it is to metaphorically "enforce" Christianity in a nation that is supposed to be free of religious persecution. Really well done.

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