The Wisconsin Assembly is poised to vote Tuesday on a highly inappropriate resolution “recognizing Thanksgiving week as National Bible Week in Wisconsin.”
Imagine the uproar were the Legislature to promote “National Quran Week in Wisconsin.” It is equally wrong for legislators to promote their own religion’s so-called sacred text.
It’s a fundamental American principle that the government may not take sides over religion. This wise decision by our Founders to keep religion out of government has preserved true religious liberty throughout most of our nation’s history.
Unfortunately, over the years theocrats have opportunistically picked the period around Thanksgiving as a time to demand the government adopt religious resolutions.
Dedicating a week to the bible directly endorses Christianity over other religions, thereby telling non-Christian citizens we are second-class citizens for being the “wrong” religion. Legislators need to catch up with the changing demographics. Pew recently announced that fully 26 percent of adult Americans are “atheists, agnostics or no particular religion.” The last census in Dane County, Wis., where Madison is located, puts the nonreligious at 54 percent — more than half the population.
The bible these legislators seek to place on a pedestal promotes conduct that modern society would be appalled at. It condemns to death blasphemers, apostates, gays — even “stubborn sons” and women who are not virgins on their wedding night. It says women are only worth two-thirds of men and reviles them as “unclean.” It sanctions slavery, rape in wartime, and the severe corporal punishment of children.
Patriot Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason: “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.”
The resolution’s sponsors are free as private citizens to celebrate a week promoting the bible. They are not free to misuse their civil authority to sanction the bible or any other religious text. The resolution’s sponsors should open up the Wisconsin Constitution, and remind themselves that Article 1, Section 18 forbids them from interfering with the “rights of conscience” or showing “any preference . . . by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.”
FFRF is based in Madison, Wisconsin.