Pennsylvania Legislators Propose ‘American Religious History Week’… Which is All About Christianity

Pennsylvania legislators love their Bible.

They love it so much, they declared 2012 “Year of the Bible.” Since that wasn’t enough, they declared October, 2012 “Prayer Month.” And that was after May 3, 2012, which we all obviously remember was a Day of Prayer.

So what do they do for an encore?

They declare it week “American Religious History Week“…

And by “religious,” they mean Christian and only Christian because America’s religious history is full of nothing but Christianity:

WHEREAS, The first act of America’s first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of four chapters of the Bible; and

WHEREAS, The Liberty Bell was named for the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof”; and

WHEREAS, In 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools” and therefore approved the production of the first English language Bible printed in America that contained the congressional endorsement that “the United States in Congress assembled … recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States”; and

WHEREAS, Beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal Government printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained; and

WHEREAS, The constitutions of each of the 50 states, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God; and

WHEREAS, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the Bible “is the best gift God has given to men … But for it, we could not know right from wrong”; and

WHEREAS, President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only led the nation in a six-minute prayer during D-Day on June 6, 1944, but he also declared that “If we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction”; and

WHEREAS, President John F. Kennedy declared that “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God”; and

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives designate the week of May 6 through 12, 2013, as “American Religious History Week” for the recognition of the impact of religious beliefs on America’s history; and …

RESOLVED, 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.

Ahh, so that’s what this is all really about. Who knows what that last bit has to do with instances of our government invoking Christianity throughout history. Religious language being used by government officials is very different from endorsing or establishing Christianity, which that last passage could easily be construed as doing.

But since this is all about “religious history,” Justin Vacula asks some good questions:

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?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Andrew Seidel also chimes in, while tearing apart all those WHEREASes, letting us know the real intentions of the PA legislators:

For those who don’t understand theocratic Newspeak, let me translate: the House rejects the separation of state and church, particularly on public buildings and in our schools. Keep “In God We Trust” on the Capitol and the Ten Commandments in front of our Pennsylvania schools (not for long).

One is inclined to think that the House formed an Irony Committee to draft such absurd language. With this language, the House is rejecting the very Constitution they promised to uphold upon entering office.

The bill’s in the education committee, where it should just be filed away, but there’s little hope to be placed in these legislators, who have shown repeatedly how much they love honoring Christianity.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • L.Long

    This would be a good idea if they where going to state any REAL history instead of the made up history that makes all the Sheeple happy.

  • WallofSleep

    Awesome! So where do we start? The Crusades? The Inquisition? Manifest Destiny? Or is that too much real history? Shall we just go with the fake history from your favorite book of fables, Pennsylvania?

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Citizens should read the Book of Job to get a good picture of their deity.

    • WallofSleep

      Here’s a condensed, easy to watch version:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHPg3kjKBRc

    • Free

      Sovereign, Omnipotent and not impressed by our opinions. Must be something more He had in mind than just the mundane. I’m sure Job knows now.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

        Awe, True, do you find the mundane too hard to swallow? You are born, you breed, rear children and then you die. The billions of other species of life, on this planet, a number that makes humans a minority, perform that function everyday. The universe doesn’t exist for you, it just exists. It is so sad that the many years of evolution and adaptation, of days gone by, are being wasted on you.

  • C Peterson

    A true American History Week should start with the very beginning, when religious zealots from Europe fled, with the intent of creating their own theocracies in America. It should continue to the Founding Fathers, mainly non-Christians who deliberately sought to separate state and church, and founded our laws on powerfully non-Christian principles. It should move on to cover the various periods of religious extremism that the country has cycled through, and the role of those periods in causing wars, poverty, and diminished civil rights.

    • Leiningen’s Ants

      But that would mean we’d have to give children credit for actually being intelligent sentient human beings, and what parent wants (them to know) that?

    • Free

      While I agree that the title of this proposal is simply a euphemistic way to say America’s Christian Roots, I do not agree with your perception fully. American Religious History would include all of the influences of the cultures that make up America. Be careful, however, if you think that our laws were founded on non-christian principles. I think a great study into your position will reveal somethings that may trouble you. As hard as one may try, you can not recreate the past and the reality that our nation was not founded strongly in the roots of faith. Please show us the powerful atheistic principles that are the bedrock of our forefathers quotes.

      • C Peterson

        Who said anything about “atheistic principles”? What I said is that our legal system is strikingly non-Christian. Indeed, I can think of no so called “Christian values” (other than obvious moral values found in all religion, as well as non-religion) that make up any aspect of our legal system. We only see Christianity affecting our laws at a small scale… the very sort of laws that have slowly been weeded away over a couple of centuries in response to the fundamental Constitutional law that defines our system.

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

          I beginning to wonder if the only reason “Free” keeps commenting here is to convince himself of the things he is espousing.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

        “Free” is still running strong with an argument of assertion. No matter how many times you try to push that idea of a faith based America it ain’t going to slide here.

      • Gus Snarp

        Find me the word “God” or “Jesus” in the Constitution. Find me the word “religion” outside of text forbidding it to be used as a test for office and mandating that government not establish one. I’ll wait.

      • Spuddie

        “Christian principles?” What a load of bullshit!

        You can’t even tell anyone what they actually are. I dare you to come up with a non-self reflexive definition of the term.

        -What are the actual principles?

        -What is so uniquely Christan about them?

        There is no actual definition of the term. It means whatever the speaker feels like describing them at the moment. Its like how people never give an actual definition of “A Christian Nation”. A meaningless phrase used to pretend Fundamentalist Christianity has more influence than reality permits.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

      On the other hand a True American (theism) History Week should start with displays of Animism (Native Americans) moving to the Viking’s Paganism, Wicca or Druidic religions. and then on to the lesser deities of the Abraham Traditions.
      So if this were enacted to celebrate “your foundational” religions well Mr. True… The founding religious traditions stem from Native American and Pagan religions. Put that into your lead pipe and smoke it.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

      On the other hand a True American (theism) History Week should start with displays of Animism (Native Americans) moving to the Viking’s Paganism, Wicca or Druidic religions. and then on to the lesser deities of the Abraham Traditions.
      So if this were enacted to celebrate “your foundational” religions well Mr. True… The founding religious traditions stem from Native American and Pagan religions. Put that into your lead pipe and smoke it.

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    Look at the unconstitutional sectarian prayer that Baker delivered in March:

    http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/HJ/2013/0/20130313.pdf

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    losing. that’s the word that comes to my mind. this is what losers do.

    when you know you’ve lost, like in the battle against gay equality, or theocracy, you spend all your time trying to pass unconstitutional legislation enshrining your beliefs, as you know soon, within a few terms, you’ll be replaced. by people who don’t think jeebus needs laws to protect him.

    i am actually pretty harsh about the future generations, “kids today” etc. but one thing i know they won’t be fighting about: why we need to proclaim gawd at every event, put him in every law, legislate him into schools, etc.

    you know why? it’s not even that i think they are better or more progressive than my generation. it’s simply that they will have survived and lived thru this whole “jeebus is under attack” moment, and mostly said as a result, “meh.”

    continue to show us all your last gasp, white christian heterosexual mainstreamers. welcome to america: the land which is much more diverse than any ozzie and harriet show you ever worshipped. you can’t change it, you can’t stop it.

    • Leiningen’s Ants

      I like the analogy of a glacier. The movement is unstoppable, but damn if it doesn’t make riding the glacier tedious sometimes with all the waiting. Putting spurs into the ice doesn’t seem to help much either. Giddyup! … giddyup? Please giddyup~…

      So, a deadpan “hi yo Silver, away.” *weak attempt at hat wave*

    • Free

      There are transcendent realities that move this ship. You are right, we can not stop it.

      • Spuddie

        But you can’t name any of them.

        It all comes down to a bunch of Fundies trying to exert influence far in excess of their actual acceptance or what the law permits. For people who claim to be supportive of our nation and freedom they do an awful lot to undermine them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    I am getting really tired of having to email my reps about this sort of crap and getting responses that brush off my concern.

  • Hat Stealer

    Aren’t these guys supposed to be doing something?

  • Erp

    Pennsylvania? and no mention of the Quakers who founded that colony. Admittedly the colony of Massachusetts executed a few Quakers for being Quakers and not staying away. And quite a few (though not all) Quakers opposed the fighting in the American Revolution. Quakers also don’t baptize which puts them outside the pale for many other Christians.

    The legislators have also been reading too much Barton.

    • Spuddie

      Quaker belief is so inconvenient for fundamentalist wackadoodles. Their abiding abhorrence of entangling religion with the apparatus of state doesn’t work well for them.

      Their progenitors, the Seekers led by Roger Williams in Rhode Island were the first proponents of secular government in the American Colonies. William Penn founded PA as a refuge for people fleeing persecution based on religion. Rhode Island and Pennsylvania were at the forefront of making religious freedom an integral part of our Bill of Rights. This bill is a slap in the face to Penn’s legacy.

      This is all Barton idiocy and mendacity taken to a ridiculous level.

  • NewDawn2006

    I suppose they are also going to cover things like the Salem Witch Trials, the church’s support and complacency in slavery and the abuse and mistreatment of other races… The list goes on. If you are going to cover it then you best do all of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.mckay.18659 John McKay

    One of their whereas’s is an outright lie.

    “WHEREAS, The constitutions of each of the 50 states, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God;”

    Not true. A few years back I read all of the state constitutions to see what they said about religion. Most of them do thank God, the Almighty, or some other euphemism. Some push the idea of religion as a positive social good. But four do not specifically thank god (NH, OR, TN, VT). Their weasel word of “recognize” is based on those states saying some form of “people have a right to worship almighty god.” Furthermore, most state constitutions were copied from other states already in the union. The recycling of language says nothing about their intent.

    Of course, this is all trivia. The resolution is unconstitutional. That is so much noise doesn’t change that fact. And just being noise doesn’t make it meaningless noise. Each resolution like this is another tiny way of telling telling non-Christians and the wrong types of Christians “you don’t belong here.”

    In case anyone is interested, here are my state-by-state notes. http://johnmckay.blogspot.com/2009/06/religion-in-states.html

  • Jim Hudlow

    Chris Rodda (Liars for Jesus) would most certainly tear these clowns a new one regarding “WHEREAS, In 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools…” . Chris has debunked this statement (made up by David Barton of course) in her Liars for Jesus book as well as her refutation, chapter by chapter, of Bartons ‘Jefferson Lies’ book that was recalled by it’s xtian publisher for being so inaccurate and loose with the facts. I am sure she would provide evidence for the debunking of other of these ‘whereas’s’ as well. What a bunch of superstitious idiots.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I’m out in California, so I didn’t feel the GIANT EARTHQUAKE that must have happened along the Appalachian strike-slip fault, because apparently Pennsylvania is now adjacent to South Carolina.

    What’s next, “Make Up Our History By Pulling Stuff Out of Our Asses Day”? “How about “No, No, William Penn Wasn’t an Anglican Who Became a Quaker, He Was Really a Southern Baptist Even Though They Didn’t Exist Until 127 Years After He Died Day”?

    I’d like to see the “Wherases” explaining that one.

    • Rob

      Rural Pennsylvania has always been like that. It’s the Jesusland of the Northeast.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    Ok….I have a few suggestions as to potential “units of learning” in the course:

    1) The Mountain Meadows Massacre – batshit crazy Mormons massacre innocent women and children in the name of their false prophet and his space alien god. Religious genocide 101

    2) JonesTown – a batshit crazy evangelical control freak convinces some of his flock to commit mass suicide, and his core followers to murder the rest – Religious genocide 102
    3) Cults and mass suicides – expanding on the unit at (2) we take a deeper look at mass religious suicides by examining the parallels between JonesTown and Waco/Branch Davidians, Heavens Gate and historical examples of End Times prophecies causing US citizens to kill themselves – there are plenty in the 1800s
    4) The forced conversion of First Nations peoples to Christianity after they had been isolated into gulags – sorry reservations – by missionaries and cultural genocide of their native faiths and beliefs.
    5) Neo-Faiths – the propensity of US citizens to follow oddball off the shelf cargo cult religions – examples to include Mormons, Scientologists, Raelians, Adventists, etc
    6) Biblical Literalism and the new dark ages – how the insane and increasingly untenable belief that the Bible is inerrant leads to the direct erosion of educational standards and mass cognitive dissonance in the US population.
    7) Theocracy and its dangers – taking in the Puritans and their attempts to set up a theocratic state in pre-Revolution USA, the Danbury Baptists and Jefferson, etc.

    8) Witch-hunting through the Ages – students will be asked to compare and contrast the Puritan witch-hunts fuelled by extremist Protestantism and the experiences of modern day Atheists and Freethinkers such as those in King (NC), covered by the documentary “In God We Trust”, Damon Fowler, Jessica Ahlquhist, Will Phillips, etc. Extra credit will be awarded to students who carry out compare and contrast between the religious aspects of McCarthyite purging in the 1950s and current Islamophobia as exemplified by representatives Bachmann, Gohmert et al.

    Guess that is why I wouldn’t make it as a teacher.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jerome-McCollom/100000327150215 Jerome McCollom

    This is why any mention and promotion of religion/CHristianity/God/Jesus must be ignored, no matter how trivial it might seem. The religious rightwing uses any favorable mention of religion by government in the past to lay a foundation for greater mention in the future.


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