Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives had a great deal of fun this weekend, I think, coming up with increasingly extravagant terms in which to describe the terrible awfulness which is health care reform. They seemed to be playing a game, competing about who could come up with the most dire warnings of the doom that would come to the United States of America if the people were given better access to medical treatment when in need.
Congressman Steve King, who represents the 5th congressional district in Iowa, took this game to a new level of passionate fury when he suggested that the very debate on the health care legislation was an unacceptable blasphemy. He said,
“This legislation passed the House sometime this morning. I will just say, first of all, I am grateful that this usurpation of American liberty technically in its final phase didn’t take place on the Sabbath during Lent, although most of the machinations, debates, and battles, and some of the votes, actually did take place on the Sabbath during Lent.
Our Founding Fathers would have considered it a serious violation of the standards of decency to assault liberty on the Sabbath, especially during Lent, and I consider it the same. Sacrilegious may have been something that would have come to mind.”
The Founding Fathers of the United States, actually, sought to separate religious laws from government. The Constitution they wrote outlawed any religious test, including requirements of observing holy days, for public office. The very first part of the very first amendment to the Constitution forbade Congress from taking any action to establish religion. Outlawing congressional action on religious holy days would be one example of this kind of forbidden establishment of religion.
Constitutional issues aside, Steve King’s insistence on universal observance of his Sabbath by the U.S. Congress is out of touch with the present culture of the nation. Many members of Congress aren’t Christian or Jewish.
Even in Steve King’s home state of Iowa, most people don’t observe any weekly holy day as a time when work is forbidden. Across Iowa, businesses remain open every day of the week. According to the American Religious Identification Survey released in 2009, one-quarter of Iowans are neither Jewish nor Christian, and even many Christians and Jews don’t observe their religion’s Sabbath. So, Steve King’s insistence that everybody observe his holy day doesn’t match the values of large numbers of his constituents.
Is nothing sacred? Well, in the federal government, no, nothing is sacred. When a holy day celebrated by some people seeks to bring everyone’s government grinding to a halt, sacrilege in the public sphere makes a great deal of sense.