State buys Bibles for legislators.

I know of two ways to get a free Bible these days:

The first is to visit Harmony Church on Sunday mornings and take one from the center of the tables.

The second is to be a legislator in Pennsylvania, which spent more than $13,000 on Bibles and other religious texts for lawmakers to use when they get sworn in.

House members got to pick from more than a dozen choices, ranging in price from $30 to $90. Each was embossed with the lawmaker’s name at an additional cost of $15 per book, according to public records.

All but seven of the 203 House members received one, with 72 picking the New American Catholic Bible, making it the most popular choice.

Americans United for Separatation of Church and State has, unsurprisingly, taken issue with this. From the organization’s Web site:

Government cannot prefer religion over non-religion, or one religious belief over others. The fact that these legislators are receiving any holy book from the state wrongly entangles government with religion. The Constitution demands that the state remain neutral when it comes to matters of faith.

Lawmakers are free to practice their religion on their own time. And they can afford to purchase their own Bibles or other holy books with their own funds.

Let’s hope the Pennsylvania General Assembly puts an end to this misguided tradition and maybe even begins a new one: providing copies of the Constitution.

I’m all for people having a copy of the Bible, even more so for them actually reading it. But Americans United is absolutely right: These legislators who wanted to use the Bible to be sworn in could just as easily used their own or borrowed one from a friend or constituent (or, for that matter, Harmony Church). This was a waste of taxpayer money in an economic climate where taxpayers don’t have much money.

But maybe someone could argue that these books were used for government business and that justifies the cost? It’s not like these lawmakers took advantage of state funding for personal leisure … right?

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

State Rep. Chris Ross (R., Chester) got a copy of the Quran. He said yesterday that he took the Jan. 6 oath on his own Bible, but ordered the Muslim holy book because he had always wanted to read it.

Oops.

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2 thoughts on “State buys Bibles for legislators.

  1. Clay March 7, 2009 / 11:37 pm

    This “perk” of office probably only made the news because it involved Bibles. Legislators also get tons of other perks such as special licence plates etc that cost taxpayers unnecessary money. I’m sure that the states slides by “establishment of religion” by making all the other choices available. There is probably a good Neitzche text on the list for the humanists. I guess my point is that the real issue is perks not “holy texts”.

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