“The Year of the Bible” in a state founded on religious freedom

A bill adopted unanimously in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would make 2012 “the year of the Bible” in the Commonwealth. The rector of an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of Bethlehem, among others, says “not so fast!” Others point out that Pennsylvania was founded on the principle of religious freedom and that the law deviates from that tradition.

The Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre reports:

Sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny County, the “non-controversial resolution” ends with “in recognition of both the formative influence of the Bible on our commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.”

“All over the Pennsylvania Capitol, one can easily see the tremendous influence that Christianity and the Bible have had over our founders and predecessors. These images and quotes illustrating the beliefs and morals that have shaped our great commonwealth must never be forgotten,” Saccone said.

The Rev. Daniel Gunn, leader of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre, said he disagrees with the House resolution and feels government should refrain from religious proclamations.

“There’s a reason we have separation of church and state,” Gunn said. “I do not deal with legislative issues from the pulpit, and I don’t think the legislature should be dealing too much with religious issues,” Gunn said.

Jonathan Malesic, an associate professor of theology at King’s College who is a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state, said the resolution “flies in the face of Pennsylvania’s history.”

He noted the state’s initial European settlers, the Quakers, “didn’t want to institute a Quaker theocracy. They wanted religious freedom. Pennsylvania was the religiously free colony.”

“To see something like this in Pennsylvania, considering our current religious diversity and our history of religious diversity,” contradicts the Quaker’s intent.

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