Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Remember the Year of the Bible?

On October 4, 1982, the U.S. Congress by a Joint Resolution of both the Senate and House of Representatives of the 97th Congress, declared 1983 the Year of the Bible.

But wait! What about the First Amendment's establishment clause? That clause prohibits Congress from establishing a religion. However, this resolution does not establish a law. It simply recognizes history.

Here is the text:

Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people;

Whereas deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation;

Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States;

Whereas many of our great national leaders-among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson-paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country's development, as in the words of President Jackson that the Bible is "the rock on which our Republic rests";

Whereas the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and societies;

Whereas this Nation now faces great challenges that will test this Nation as it has never been tested before; and

Whereas that renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national "Year of the Bible" in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.


CrypticLife said...

Or, it's unconstitutional but unchallenged. Personally, it looks like establishment of religion to me.

1) It says, "the Bible, the Word of God,"
2) It says, "renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people"

I suspect it was merely unchallenged. Congress doesn't have some auto-detect feature for violations of the First amendment, and hence they violate it relatively regularly.

I do find it QUITE odd that in 1932 they would have chosen 1983 as the year of the Bible. Are you quite sure you don't mean 1933?

History Matters said...

Thanks for catching that! The year should have read 1982, and I just corrected it. Congress passed the resolution in '82 and it applied to '83.

I think you are correct that it is unchallenged, and of course there is no sure way to predict what the Court would rule. The Supreme Court has said more than once in the past that this is a Christian nation, and the Supreme Court has also barred prayer from graduation ceremonies, so consistency it not assured.

But I stand by my statement that the intent of the First Amendment was to stop any LAW that established a national religion and forced people to adhere to it. A resolution like this one has no power of law. The Congress can pass a "sense of the Congress" resolution if they are feeling miffed about something, but the resolution does nothing more than state an opinion. The same is true for the Year of the Bible resolution. It's not a law; it's just a statement.