Days before Congress adjourned for its August recess, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) sent a copy of the Bible to all 535 members of Congress, calling on lawmakers to reflect on “God’s word” when deciding on “policy decisions that impact America’s future.”
“On a daily basis, we contemplate policy decisions that impact America’s future. Our staffs provide us with policy memos, statistics and recommendations that help us make informed decisions,” the Assistant House Majority Whip wrote on July 29 in a personal note accompanying the holy books. "However, I find that the best advice comes through meditating on God's word. Please find a copy of the Holy Bible to help guide you in your decision-making."
The letter, obtained by Talking Points Memo, states that the gifts were donated by J.B. Atchison, one of Palazzo's South Mississippi constituents, who requested that they be distributed to Congress so that lawmakers “could read God's word and abide by his 10 commandments.”
Distributing all the books took interns and staffers “several days,” Palazzo spokeswoman Jill Duckworth told USA Today.
While no non-Christian lawmakers have objected to the handout thus far, according to Business Insider, Palazzo’s actions drew fire from secular groups criticizing the tea party congressman for setting a specific religious doctrine as a universal guide for public policy.
Although Palazzo presented the Bible as a source of reconciliation amid a gridlocked Congress, Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, criticized the gesture as inappropriate and exclusionary.
"When a politician calls for using the Bible as the basis for public policy, what he or she is really saying is, 'Let's use the Bible as I interpret it as the basis for public policy,'" Lynn told TPM on Monday. "When it comes to religion, our nation is pluralistic and diverse. Rather than look to the Bible or any other religious book to craft our nation's public policy, we would do well to examine another source instead, one that was actually created to guide governance. It's called the Constitution."
Rob Boston, the group’s director of communications, told USA Today that there are “many ways for interpreting the Bible," a point that has led liberals and conservatives to rely on overlapping passages to warrant "exact opposite positions on any number of policy concerns.”
"While it may provide spiritual solace for a lot of people, it was never intended to be a governance document," Boston told the paper on Tuesday.
(h/t Talking Points Memo)