Apologies Over Year of Bible

Reps Cohen and Josephs held a press conference this week that has us scratching our heads

We were pretty heated about the “Year of the Bible” legislation that passed in Pennsylvania recently, so much so that we challenged it in a big way. Not only does the measure seem to neglect the entire argument for the separation of church and state (a defense of freedom for both the religious and secular alike), but it endorses one religious text over all others.

Our biggest concern is that a law like this has the power to usher in all sorts of other religious legislation – something that could be used to jeopardize much of the LGBT rights movement in a state that still doesn’t allow same-sex marriage or civil unions and where you can still be fired from your job for being gay – the same goes for 29 other states in this country.

But on Monday, Rep. Mark Cohen and Rep. Babette Josephs – both Democrats who voted in favor of the “Year of the Bible” – issued apologies during a press conference. They’ve since changed their stance, saying they would repeal the decision. Josephs told the press that she never read the mandate and/or didn’t understand it.

“I made the mistake in so voting,” Cohen said. “Other members of the legislature also made a mistake.”

“I want to also say I also made a mistake,” Josephs added. “I apologize for it.”

We applaud legislators who admit wrong doing. It’s truly a breath of fresh air in a sometimes murky political system. But we have a little problem when these same legislators deny knowing what was in the legislation in the first place, especially since Josephs issued a statement after we complained – defending the measure.

She stated very specifically:

I chose not to vote “no” or to make a fuss, because there are many people who get guidance every day and draw their strength all the time from the Bible (without specifying what Bible), and I have respect for those feelings and religious beliefs. … These ‘recognition’ or ‘awareness’ days, weeks or months like HR 535 are proclaimed to honor initiatives and ideas that many Americans hold dear. … That is the spirit in which I voted for this resolution.

So as you can imagine, we’re a little confused. Either you didn’t read the proposal and voted for it anyway, or you did read it, supported it and voted for it. The bottom line is you voted for it and then you defended it in a response after we challenged that vote. And now Josephs is saying she was duped. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

Frankly, we don’t know what’s worse – that our legislators don’t actually read the bills they’re voting for or that they think they can somehow back track when tax payers start questioning why they would dream about passing such a reprehensible law in the first place.

We hope these same elected officials start getting serious about laws that matter the most – ones that protect our very rights and civil liberties. Because if you don’t have time to read the bills on your desk, folks, perhaps it’s best to focus on the important ones – and not “Talk Like a Pirate Day” – or worse: “Year of the Bible.”