The Nature and Purpose of a Bill I Want Someone to Introduce Into the Pennsylvania State Legislature

Introduction: My Claim to Standing in Pennsylvania

I grew up in Pennsylvania. Graduated from elementary and high schools in Philadelphia. So even though I have been away from the Keystone State for 58 years, I think I have some (albeit shaky) standing to suggest a bill. Not that I want to introduce it, of course, or that I’m asking that it bear my name. No, I’m not seeking glory here.

I intend to send this essay to Pennsylvania state legislators. Hopefully someone will adopt the basic idea and introduce such a bill. If it or one like it passes, I’ll be happy to come up from Florida for the signing ceremony. I’ll even pay my own travel expenses. 

Two Infamous Legislative Resolutions

What set me on this path was reading about two bills introduced in Harrisburg this week, namely, HR 17 and HR 51. The former proclaims April 30, 2013 as National Fast Day; the latter identifies May 2 as a National Day of Prayer. 

Well, guess what? The State of Pennsylvania does not get to name national days of anything, not even a national day of Look at Us - We’re Acting Like Fools Day. But, to propose a bill of the nature of HRs 17 and 51 is contemptible, vile, egregious, grotesque and not even nice.

What a crock. What would William Penn think of such resolutions? Why were the guilty parties who sponsored these bills not hooted down, or better yet, censored for ignoring sworn commitments to uphold state and national constitutions? Why haven't the people of Pennsylvania initiated a recall campaign? Both bills disgrace the state, not only because they were introduced at all and accepted into the public record but, far worse, because they passed overwhelmingly. Holy theocracy.

Doesn’t anyone in that legislative body care to defend our secular Republic? What’s next? A resolution naming Pennsylvania a Christian State? A morality amendment to that state’s constitution outlawing abortion, banning all forms of sex education, calling for mandatory prayers in public schools, banishing the words evolution and science, declaring homosexuality a choice linked with removal of civil rights for gays and lesbians? How about a supremacy bill declaring the laws of God superior to those of man?

Of course states cannot pass laws that inhibit rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, but this detail does not seem to cool the ardor of political religious fundamentalists. 

A Dreadful Prognostication Coming to Pass? 

These and other legislative initiatives are found in Steven Jonas’ fictional non-fiction novel, The 15% Solution. This futuristic masterwork describes how the Republican Religious Right, over a period of several decades, transformed America into a fascist Christian nation. Horrific stuff, but plausible based upon factual events leading up to our present time - and thereby even more unsettling. This is especially the case because of the aggressive Christian offenses against secular decencies seen in Pennsylvania’s HR 17 and 51.

Perhaps some of these state legislators actually read Dr. Jonas’ newly reissued and updated book. Perhaps, despite the author’s intent of warning us against such a possibility, these Pennsylvania Right Wing Republican politicians thought everything the fictional Christians accomplished with their 15% solution to bring about a fascist Christian state were in fact capital ideas. Perhaps the future that Dr. Jonas warns us against represents a wet dream kind of consummation devoutedly to be wished by Pennsylvania legislators. It could be that Dr. Jonas unintentionally set these maniacs into a religious frenzy. Perhaps the prayer and fasting resolutions are harbinger initiatives designed to get the righteous ball rolling.

These people are worse than ignorant. They are enemies of the state. They are insurrectionists, fundamentalist ideologues who might be serious about overthrowing the government, albeit in non-violent ways, at least so far. Let me get into the spirit of things in dealing with these holy roller pols and smite them a bit, with their own style righteous warning, modified as somewhat sensible, slightly modified biblical wrath. While this is not found in Romans 1:18, it’s close enough - they should get the basic idea: For the wrath of the people is revealed from the ballot box against all godliness and religious righteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the true nation of our society.

Corny and weird but, who knows? It might get their attention.

For the record, let me explain the situation in a little more detail with excerpts from a splendid letter mailed to Pennsylvania newspapers by Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF):

It is inappropriate and exclusionary for the government to designate days of prayer and fasting. Representatives in the Pennsylvania General Assembly have continually abused the authority of their elected office to endorse religion and call upon Pennsylvania citizens to venerate and show obeisance to their preferred religious practices. This intrusion into the private religious beliefs or non-religious views of citizens must end. It is time that legislators stop abusing their public office to create religious holidays. It’s time they get off their knees and get to work!

The Resolutions

The resolutions belong in the believe it or not category. Ripley would have made a place for both in his exhibitions, I’m sure. 

H.R. 17 was introduced by political genius State Rep. Rick Saccone. This is the representative who, a year ago, promoted a Year of the Bible proclamation, also adopted by the legislature. FFRF sued over that one, and a U.S. District Judge characterized the politicians attempt as premeditated pandering designed to provide a reelection sound bite. The judge wrote that the proclamation involved the blatant use of legislative resources in contravention of the spirit – if not the letter – of the Establishment Clause.

H.R. 17 calls for a National Fast Day. Is this a Christian back door attempt to help obese citizens of Christian persuasion lose weight? If so, it’s a very odd diet plan. I have seen no evidence that the following advice promotes weight loss, yet it is the key feature of H.R. 17’s 24-hour fast period: Confess your national sins and pray for clemency and forgiveness. No details are offered as to what constitutes national sins. Neither is there an explanation about how the faithful might learn if they been granted clemency and/or forgiveness” after praying for such. Or, for that matter, how or to whom such prayers should be offered. 

There has to be a better, non-denomination wholly (not holy) way to lose weight, such as exercising more combined with a whole-foods plant-based diet. 

Elements of a Bill Pennsylvania State Legislators Might Wish to Consider

How about a bill that atones for the above theocratic nonsense while affirming the best sensibilities of the State of Pennsylvania? I have in mind a resolution that contains at least the following affirmations:

  • That Pennsylvania, like the nation of which all states are a part, is secular. Everyone has equal rights; there is no official religion. All are entitled to freedom of as well as freedom from religion. Church and state are separate.
  • That critical thinking about religion and all else is welcomed and supported; to suppress it is unhealthy and inhumane.
  • That whether one prays, fasts, worships or otherwise recognizes or engages in any form of religious devotion is of no business of the state. The government neither supports nor inhibits such activities in any way whatsoever.

This could be a succinct bill that everyone can support, one that is unifying rather than divisive, provided he or she supports the U.S. Constitution. What is there not to like about such a welcoming resolution of positive affirmations? Nothing, in my opinion, unless of course one favors a theocracy.

If that is what Pennsylvania legislators desire, I think they should come out and say so. Then the voters can decide in the next election if that is the kind of state or even nation that seems attractive, and vote accordingly.