PA Republicans Use ‘God’s Law’ to Silence Colleague

PA Republicans Use ‘God’s Law’ to Silence Colleague July 1, 2013

In the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, time is set aside when the members can take the floor to speak on whatever subject they like (like the U.S. House does with “special order” speeches). But they can be stopped from speaking if just one of their colleagues objects. Look what happened when a gay legislator got up to talk about the DOMA ruling:

Openly gay state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, was blocked from talking about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday on the floor of the Pennsylvania House.

His comments to his colleagues were ended by a procedural maneuver…

It takes just one legislator to end the impromptu remarks. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe was one of the House Republicans who objected.

“I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law,” said Metcalfe, R-Butler.

Mr. Metcalfe, you are a theocratic asshole — just like the god you invented to believe in because he confirms all the things you want to be true.

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  • Take that, First Amendment!

  • Randomfactor

    Sounds like Prior Restraint to me.

  • matty1

    I actually had a look at the Pennsylvania State Constitution and can’t find God’s law in there, I did pick up this worrying paragraph though.

    No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

    Would I be right in assuming the anti-atheist discrimination this implies is not actually enforceable?

  • One of the commenters on JT’s blog the other day said “The government of the state of Pennsylvania is not concerned with what the legislators think is the will of God. It is concerned with governing the state.”

    My Response:

    One would wish that were so. But I’ll tell you, the majority of the government of the State of PA seems to be concerned chiefly with what the will of God is.

    Remember: Metcalfe is the majority chair of the state government committee. Our governor isn’t much better either. Lately, our house has passed:

    Year of the Bible (2012)

    October Prayer Month (2012)

    National Fast Day (In PA)

    National Day of Prayer (In PA)

    Oh, and a resolution to recognize the religious liberty of all Pennsylvanians, a resolution to recognize the liberty to believe whatever you want in schools (To recognize the 50th anniversary of Abington V. Schempp, which removed compulsory school bible readings and prayer), and a bill to remove the law made invalid by Abington V. Schempp (Still on the books after 50 years) are all stalled in committee. There’s also a bill to remove the religious exemption from being called “Child Abuse” for neglect that’s dead, and I don’t have high hopes for the gay marriage equality bill just introduced from Sims.

    Also, there’s a bill in our house to try and strip the anonymous status from any church-state legal plaintiff (Unless you can prove there’s a direct threat to life and limb). Luckily, that one might be stalled.

    No – Our government is NOT concerned with actually governing the state.

    Also – For #3, you are correct. It’s not enforceable, but it’s annoying.

  • dingojack

    Matty – Nah, t simply prevents wingnuts being stopped from holding office because of their wingnuttines.


  • eric

    It takes just one legislator to end the impromptu remarks.

    That system seems tailor-made for legislators to shut down open commentary on any substantive issue, and instead limit the speaking forum to pablum. So yeah the shut-down was bigoted and repressive. But honestly, what else would expect out of such a system?

  • Draken

    There’s light on the horizon- not even all Republicans are happy with Mr Metcalfe’s behaviour:

    Rep. Mike Fleck, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay lawmaker, said of Rep. Metcalfe’s move to silence Rep. Sims: “I, like many of my Republican colleagues, was infuriated. I think we should be able to speak on any issue. If you don’t like it, you can get up and leave.”

  • brucegee1962

    If I’m reading the rule in #3 correctly, it doesn’t say anything about atheists (other than explicitly omitting them). So if you’re denied a job because you’re an atheist, you’d still be able to claim discrimination under the Constitution — this law wouldn’t have any effect.

    OTOH, if you claimed on your job application that you were a pastafarian, then this law probably COULD be invoked. After all, the law just says you have to “acknowledge the being” of a God, whatever that means — not that you actually believe in it.

    Despite the problems with pastafarianism, it almost makes you wish someone would do it, just to watch the legal system squirm over the case.

  • cry4turtles

    Metcalf got his ass handed to him on his Facebook page by theists and atheists alike. Living one county north, I wrote to him on several forums. Hopefully it will spell the end to his career.

  • Don Williams

    1) A little local context. If you let people talk about DOMA in the Pennsylvania Legislature, it doesn’t leave enough time for gerrymandering of FEDERAL districts.

    For example, the district of my Republican Congressman:

    For extra credit, try to guess the percentage of black constituents.

    2) Plus you need time to pass a law doubling the rates charged on the Pennsylvania Turnpike so that the Turnpike can hand $450 Million per year to the PA Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) to build local roads — which by the strangest coincidence tend to greatly increase the value of raw farmland recently acquired by local real estate developers.

    While all the time voicing your strong opposition to raising taxes and giving welfare to the undeserving.

  • exdrone

    @ cry4turtles: “Metcalf got his ass handed to him on his Facebook page by theists and atheists alike.”

    Less relevant but still reassuring is the fact that the comment trail for the Newswork article slapped Metcalfe around quite a bit too.

  • Jen

    I’m getting REALLY sick of this “God’s Law” crap. They seem to think that we ALL have to care what “God” says, when there are a lot of us who don’t believe and don’t care. Somebody needs to teach these people that we’re not actually a theocracy, as much as they seem to think we are.

  • dan4

    I’m willing to bet there’s a decent overlap between those who think Metcalfe did the right thing here and those who are constantly worried about “creeping Shariah” in the U.S.