Column: Bible bill could alienate some W.Va. residents

Recently, a new bill was introduced in the West Virginia House that would officially make the Holy Bible the state book of West Virginia.

The bill, “House Bill 2568,” was officially introduced Feb. 20 by multiple delegates, including ones from Kanawha, Logan and Boone counties, amongst a few others. I personally believe establishing a bill that amends the state code to endorse one religion over another goes against everything that a state government should be.

For starters, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits such behavior. Government agents cannot make any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This is exactly what West Virginia delegates are doing, regardless if they have knowledge of this specific violation. The Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study revealed, albeit the results are not shocking, that 78 percent of adults in West Virginia identity as Christian, with a more specified 39 percent Evangelical Protestant, 29 percent Mainline Protestant and six percent Catholic.

A measly three percent of adults in West Virginia practice non-Christian religions. We get it. Christian Jesus is more liked in the state than other deities that are subsequently respected and worshipped by millions of people across the Earth. Delegates who vote in favor of the bill are alienating residents of their own state. The West Virginians I know and love would never want to do that.

In an interview with WSAZ News, Delegate Mike Pushkin from Kanawha County said he believes the state’s budget bill should be the official bill of the current session — he’s totally right. The Herald-Dispatch reports there is already an estimated $123 million loss in revenue for fiscal year 2017. Pushkin shows a lot of sensibility when it comes to these more ridiculous things that tend to pop up in the House and I thank him on behalf of other West Virginians who’s cries for sanity can be heard faintly at all times.

I often float towards music when I feel uncertain or emotional. One of my go-to’s is musician Sufjan Stevens, who also offers pretty insightful rhetoric about public affairs on his blog. Recently a post of his was picked up by the Washington Post and ran in its entirety as an op-ed piece. I am personally not affiliated with any religion; I have my own issues with organized religion as well, but in the long run, I admire what religion does for people. Although important for lots of my peers and fellow citizens, religion is a double-edged sword. Part of Steven’s post stood out to me. It reads:

“Jesus said you must hate your mother and father and love your enemies. This is not obtuse provocation, but it’s spiritual deployment of true identity, which no longer resides in skin color combination, ideology, genealogy, name, people, places and things, but in the brotherhood and sisterhood of all humankind, which is ruled by love at any cost.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Christ’s words, and the example of his life and death — albeit strange and socially unsuccessful (he lived and died unpopular and in poverty) — we’re equally sublime and sacrificial. To gain access to true love and true self, you must die to yourself, to your family, to your heritage, your narrow-minded ideology, your ego, your ill-conditioned consciousness and your false identity.”

I think Stevens’ post has a lot of great points, but I believe what he is trying to say in the aforementioned paragraphs is that in order to help each other, we must sometimes throw away previous convictions in order to do the most good we can for those who need it. West Virginia Delegates could learn a lot from those words. Just because your beliefs and feelings are strong — maybe the strongest thing they’ve every personally felt — it doesn’t make that belief the standard for how things should be done, let alone require an entire state to endorse said belief, no matter how many people disagree.

Realizing that your actions can be good sans pre-established morals could serve as an awakening and bring further help to the state in things we struggle with, like drug addiction and the stigmas associated with it. West Virginia could be restored to how good it apparently was according to the stories of our peers, friends and relatives — it may be as simple as sitting down and really determining what needs to be done for the good of all citizens, regardless of religious position.

Will Izzo can be contacted at [email protected].