Lawsuit: Pa. Year of the Bible resolution unlawful
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — An organization that includes atheists and agnostics has filed a lawsuit over a state House resolution that declares 2012 the Year of the Bible, saying the measure violates the U.S. Constitution's provision that prevents government from enacting laws "respecting an establishment of religion."
The Freedom from Religion Foundation on Monday sued the measure's main sponsor, Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny; House clerk Tony Barbush; and House parliamentarian Clancy Myer over the resolution.
The lawsuit says the resolution "sends a message to the citizens of Pennsylvania, including (the foundation's) members, that Christian beliefs are more legitimate in the eyes of the state than other systems of belief and thought, which constitute matters of individual free conscience."
The Madison, Wis.-based foundation wants a federal judge to order the defendants to stop publishing and distributing the resolution and to rule that the state government isn't Judeo-Christian. It also requests a declaration that the state public officials are subject to the Constitution's Establishment Clause and a repayment of costs and legal fees associated with the complaint.
Saccone, whose resolution notes the Bible's "formative influence" and says there is a "national need to study and apply" scripture, said Monday that the lawsuit was meritless.
"God has always been a part of our government," said Saccone, noting biblical phrases decorate the state Capitol and other state historical sites. "To deny that is to deny history. And that's all the resolution is — a recognition of a book that has been so important in our nation's history."
Barbush and Myer declined to comment.
The resolution passed in the House unanimously in January, but some members later said they did not realize its content and regretted their votes.
The lawsuit says the measure was described as "noncontroversial" and was bundled with other proposals, "a buried item in a bundle of unrelated resolutions."