Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In What Year Did the Federal Government Declare the Bible 'The Word of God'?

Seeing the question above, you might first think it's a trick question. It's got to be a joke, right? After all, we have a separation of church and state. But, no, it's not a joke. This actually happened. The words "separation of church and state" are just a metaphor that describes one aspect of our First Amendment. The actual Amendment intended that the Federal Government be prohibited from forcing people by law to give up their preferred religious practices.

Accepting that, you might answer that this must have happened during our early history, thinking it was influenced by very religious Founders like George Washington. That is a good guess, but not what I am looking for.

But I'm thinking of time later in our history. So might you guess it was in the middle 1800's, influenced by the man who brought us the concept of one nation under God, Abraham Lincoln.

Both those would be logical guesses, but they would be wrong. The year was 1982, less that 30 years ago. It came to us via Public Law 97-280 (October 4, 1982), a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, signed by the President of the United States. The full text is below - notice the 2nd paragraph:

Joint Resolution authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim 1983 as the “Year of the Bible.”

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 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.
Approved October 4, 1982.

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