In an 86-9 vote, the Wisconsin legislature on Tuesday passed a resolution that recognizes the week of Thanksgiving as National Bible Week. All dissenting votes came from Democrats, the minority party.
Also on Tuesday, Wisconsin legislators voted 64-30 to call the rotunda’s evergreen a “Christmas tree,” not a “holiday tree.”
The Reason Behind National Bible Week
According to the resolution, “Bible reading has been a great encouragement and comfort for many people throughout our state’s history and has contributed to the molding of the spiritual, moral, and social fiber of our citizenry.” Rep. Paul Tittl, the resolution’s author, says he’s “not just pumping out Christianity,” noting that the Bible is key to other religions, also.
Tittl credits a pastor at a “little Baptist church” for helping him rededicate his life to Jesus at age 24. After hearing a Promise Keepers speaker talk about the need for Christians in government, Tittl decided to enter politics. “It’s important to remember that we will answer to God for our decisions,” he says, “including the ones we make in our political life.” In 2016, Tittl was criticized for holding a Bible study at the statehouse.
Wisconsin legislators have previously passed resolutions to honor other holidays, says Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. But Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz says Republicans are starting “holy wars” to distract attention from a weak agenda.
Dissenters Cite Discrimination, Exclusion
Opponents call the Bible resolution inappropriate. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation says the Assembly is misusing its power to promote one faith. The resolution “directly endorses Christianity over other religions, thereby telling non-Christian citizens we are second-class citizens for being the ‘wrong’ religion,” it says. “Imagine the uproar were the Legislature to promote ‘National Quran Week.’”
The FFRF adds that lawmakers apparently consider the holiday season “a time for good will to Christians and bad will to all the rest of us.” But Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke counters: “It seems like the only religion we’re willing to take shots at is Christianity.”
Resolutions act more as symbolic statements than official laws. It’s unclear what activities—if any—will take place in Wisconsin for National Bible Week. Some Christian denominations and publishers suggest activities and Scripture readings for the occasion.
National Bible Week originated in 1941, when Scripture was read over NBC Radio on Pearl Harbor Day. Since then, every U.S. president has declared Thanksgiving week as National Bible Week. Governors and mayors make similar proclamations. The first day of the observance (Sunday, November 24 this year) is the International Day of the Bible.
Tree Label Also Gets ‘Politicized’
The resolution to call Wisconsin’s capitol evergreen a “Christmas tree” came from Rep. Scott Krug, who says it’s “about inclusion of the Christian holiday.” It was a response to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers recently switching the name to “holiday tree”—a move that Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald calls “PC garbage.”
Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, a Democrat who’s Jewish, says Republicans would be more helpful to Christians by passing gun-control measures. “Instead of doing something substantive and helpful,” he says, “we’re trying to politicize a tree.”