A recent letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle expressed some surprising statements regarding the actions of someone who was running for office. I am not interested in taking a position endorsing or opposing anyone, only in respectfully clearing up some misconceptions.
The letter writer claimed that the politician in question was attempting to “legislate in [favor of] Christianity.” Her proof was that he had sponsored a resolution declaring 2012 the “year of the Bible.” However, the resolution makes no reference to Christianity, to any other religion or to any particular version of the Bible.
Rick Saccone, who lost to Conor Lamb in last week’s election, explained that the 2012 resolution “recognizes the significant impact the Bible has had on our country. It in no way inhibits anyone from believing in any faith or no faith.” For us, as Jews, the Bible means the scroll that we read aloud from every week in synagogue. We study it and we attempt to live by it; some of us believe it is the word of God, while others see it as simply a book of great stories promoting good morals. But there is no denying that from its inception the Bible was recognized as Jewish.
Of course, this 2012 Pennsylvania resolution was not the first “year of the Bible” legislation. In 1983, then President Ronald Reagan declared that year as “the year of the Bible” in America. The biblical connection with the United States goes back to the founding of the country, as the Founding Fathers were well versed in the Bible.
As the second “proof” of Saccone attempting to “legislate in Christianity,” the letter writer offered up his supporting an initiative to “get public buildings…to post ‘In God we Trust’ on the walls.” Again, I have to point out that trust in God is one of the core beliefs of Judaism. Called in Hebrew bitachon, trust or faith in God is one of the most fundamental commandments in Judaism.
Perhaps more relevant to the general population of the United States, if we turn over our paper currency and read what is written there, we see the exact same phrase that now causes such consternation when someone like Saccone wants it on a public building. The phrase was first used on paper money in 1957 and prior to that on silver and gold coins starting from 1865. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a joint resolution of Congress declaring “In God we trust” to be the national motto of the United States.
Saccone is also vilified for co-sponsoring a bill preventing a foreign legal system — Sharia law — from superseding the laws of the United States. But the bill merely prevents a “tribunal” from considering a “foreign legal code or system which does not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Pennsylvania.” Of particular concern to the bill is the protection of “due process, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press and a right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the Constitution of Pennsylvania.”
The bill simply affirms the primacy of the laws of the Constitutions of the United States and of Pennsylvania. Anti-Sharia laws protect and safeguard the supremacy of the American legal system. A dozen states have enacted legislation upholding American law as the law of the land for all people living here.
In conclusion, we should remember that Passover is approaching. Known in Hebrew as z’man cheirutanu, the season of our freedom, we must be vigilant to protect and maintain the freedoms that have been granted to us as Jews and to the rest of the population by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. PJC
Simone Shapiro lives in Squirrel Hill.