A handful of Pennsylvania lawmakers who voted for a resolution proclaiming 2012 as "The Year of the Bible" issued an apology Monday and claimed they were duped into supporting the measure.
The lawmakers say they didn't know what was in House Resolution 535 when they voted for it, even though the very first sentence in the two-page document is, "Resolution declaring 2012 as the Year of the Bible in Pennsylvania."
Rep Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) was among the lawmakers who stepped up to the microphone Monday for the public apology.
"I made a mistake in so voting," Cohen said. "Other members of the Legislature also made a mistake."
"I want to also say I also made a mistake," Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) said during her turn at the mic. "I apologize for it."
House Resolution 535 was in a stack of resolutions labeled "non-controversial" by leaders. All came up for a vote as a group and were passed unanimously. But lawmakers now say they voted for it without realizing what was in it.
"Deceiving well-meaning legislators into endorsing a bill which is both illegal and bigoted strikes me as wholly immoral and downright un-American," said David Silverman, president of American Atheists.
Western Pennsylvania Republican Rick Saccone sponsored the resolution and is so proud of it that he framed it. He doesn't get the criticism.
"I think they're trying to make more out of it than there actually is," he said. "God has always been a part of our government."
Saccone points to 50 Biblical references at the Capitol and notes the Preamble to the state Constitution seeks God's guidance.
"I guess that makes, according to their logic, our Constitution unconstitutional," Saccone said. "Its really funny to me that people would take this kind of a stance."
But many around the Capitol aren't amused. They want the resolution reversed.
"This is not about atheists, Christians, Jews or Muslims," Silverman said. "This is about religious bigotry cloaked in false patriotism and historical revisionism."
Of course, there are a few other troubling questions. Some wonder why the state House is spending any time on such resolutions, while others want to know why lawmakers are voting on things when they don't know what's in them - and how often do they do that.