- (Photo Courtesy the Office of State Representative Jerry Stern)
In a unanimous vote earlier this week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring 2012 the "Year of the Bible."
According to H.R. 535, the Penn. House declares "2012 as the 'Year of the Bible' in Pennsylvania 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."
"Any year or every year would be a good choice to recognize the value of the Bible," said State Representative Jerry Stern, one of the sponsors of the resolution, in an interview with The Christian Post.
Regarding whether or not the resolution constituted a violation of the separation of church and state, Stern said that the First Amendment's standards only applied to Congress.
"Our 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is quite clear: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,'" said Stern.
"Our Constitution does not mention a separation principle."
While some celebrate the Pennsylvania House's resolution, others are not as fond of the resolution.
Andrew Hoover, legislative director for the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, told CP that he felt the resolution was exclusionary in nature.
"Throughout 2011, the state House passed bills that declared hostility to minorities," said Hoover.
"With this resolution, religious minorities are told, 'You're not welcome.'"
According to Hoover, earlier in the session another resolution, titled "King James Bible Heritage Month," was also approved by the state government.
Nevertheless, Hoover said he preferred the resolutions to other efforts, like a failed bill that would have created "taxpayer-funded private school vouchers."
"In the grand scheme, it's better for the House to pass non-binding 'year of the Bible' resolutions than to pass a vouchers scheme that will drain funding for public schools," said Hoover.
"Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values," Rep. Stern noted. "Because of this foundation all other religions may exercise their beliefs or lack thereof of any belief."
This is not the first time a "Year of the Bible" has been declared by an American legislature. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a Proclamation declaring that year to be "The Year of the Bible" in response to a resolution passed by Congress.
"Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible," wrote Reagan.
"I encourage all citizens, each in his or her own way, to reexamine and rediscover its priceless and timeless message."