FFRF Sues Over ‘Year of the Bible’ Resolution

In response to Pennsylvania legislators declaring 2012 the “Year of the Bible,” FFRF is filing a federal lawsuit (PDF) against state officials…

… and they’re doing it with a record number of plaintiffs:

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. FFRF names as defendants State Rep. Rick Saccone, author of the resolution, Clancy Myer, House Parliamentarian and Anthony Frank Barbush, Chief Clerk of the Pennsylvania House.

“We heard an outpouring of indignation over this improper state action. We’ve never had so many members volunteer to be part of one of our lawsuits,” commented Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. Pennsylvania membership was appalled and offended by what FFRF’s complaint calls the “exclusive endorsement of the bible and its teachings as constituting the state-sanctioned religion of Pennsylvania.”

FFRF factually contests the resolution, which claims the “word of God” and “biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government.” Another sponsor, Rep. Jerry Stern, claimed the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause doesn’t apply to the State of Pennsylvania, even though its guarantees apply equally to state citizens under the 14th Amendment.

Feel free to weigh in about their chances of success here. Even though FFRF is right about their claims, it seems like they have an uphill battle to climb in convincing a judge this is far more than just a symbolic resolution and that it’s really government endorsement of Christianity.

The original resolution inspired an atheist group to put up a Bible-based “pro-slavery billboard.” It was vandalized after one day and received lots of backlash from even the atheist community.



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    They’ll likely not win… despite the blatant Constitutional violation.

    • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

       What violation?  The Constitution forbids laws establishing religion.  Resolutions are not laws.

      • PA Year of the Bible

        PA ConstitutionReligious
        Freedom 
        Section 3.All
        men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to
        the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to
        attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry
        against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or
        interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given
        by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.

         

        • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

           Yes, that supports my position.  How does a non-binding resolution — which has absolutely no force of law — compel or control anyone to do anything against their will?

          • PA Year of the Bible

            Well, this is probably going to be moot anyway, since the Speaker of the House says he is going to introduce a resolution for the “Year of  Religious Diversity”, plus by the time this is heard in court, or appealed, 2012 will be gone and the resolution will likely be deemed moot.  I am waiting to hear the details of the Speaker’s resolution before deciding whether to support dropping the suit. I am one of the 41 named FFRF members in the suit.

            • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

               So… you can’t answer my question.  A resolution has no force of law and passing one acknowledging the Bible or anything else to do with religion simply cannot violate the Establishment Clause.  This is just another frivolous lawsuit filed by people with too much free time on their hands and a massive chip on their shoulder against anyone and anything religious.

              • PA Year of the Bible

                The primary sponsor calls the resolution “legislation” three times in his cosponsorship memorandum sent out 3 months before passage.  He also says “..we must look to our faith in God and the Holy Scripture…”.    Sounds mandatory to me! Plus it indicates legislative intent to create a “preference” for looking to “God and Holy Scripture” as the mode of worship in PA. In addition, PA lobbying law considers lobbying for/against a resolution as lobbying for/against legislation.  So I guess a court will need to decide what is a law.  Not all bills have penalties attached either.

  • Ursyl

    In what way are we Pennsylvanians not Americans that the protections of the First Amendment would not apply to us or to our state (actually a commonwealth though the government isn’t acting like it)?

    That a rep can even make that claim with a straight face is appalling!

  • Lilcracker

    How does one become a part of this lawsuit?

    • PA Year of the Bible

       It’s a bit late, it has already been filed, and there’s no legal advantage to adding more names, but just remember, if you are an FFRF member, and especially one in PA, you really are, in essence, a part of the lawsuit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rhoades/100000175617377 Scott Rhoades

      Don’t worry, I’m a plaintiff in the suit and my fellow plaintiffs and I will represent all PA atheists in this fight.

  • Anonymous

    I moved out of Pennsyltucky 5 years ago.  Don’t miss the backward, er, backwoods  knuckledraggers at all.  

  • WoodwindsRock

    I’m sure the First Amendment applies fully to the state of Pennsylvania when Christians feel their ‘freedom of religion’ is being attacked. Yet the Establishment part of the clause for some reason doesn’t apply to the state of Pennsylvania? What kind of logic are we applying here, it’s ridiculous!

    • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

       The Establishment Clause addresses laws.  Resolutions are not laws.

      • WoodwindsRock

         My response was actually not taking a stance on that, it was referring to Jerry Stern claiming that the Establishment Clause does not apply to the state of Pennsylvania.


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