Wisconsin Assembly votes to recognize National Bible Week

MADISON — Republicans who control the Wisconsin state Assembly overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to officially recognize National Bible Week later this month, sparking another skirmish in the state over religion's role in government.

President Franklin Roosevelt declared the first National Bible Week in 1941. The Assembly approved a resolution 86-9 Tuesday afternoon that recognizes Thanksgiving week as National Bible Week in Wisconsin.

"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," the resolution states.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has called the resolution "highly inappropriate."

"Dedicating a week to the bible directly endorses Christianity over other religions, thereby telling non-Christian citizens we are second-class citizens for being the 'wrong' religion," the foundation said in a statement released last week. "Imagine the uproar were the Legislature to promote 'National Quran Week in Wisconsin.'"

No one in the Assembly spoke against the resolution before the vote. The nine lawmakers who voted against it were all Democrats.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters before the vote that the chamber has honored other religions' holidays with similar resolutions in the past and "many of us are Christians."

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was asked about the resolution earlier Tuesday after he signed an executive order to promote diversity and inclusion in state government. He declined to answer and walked away from reporters without taking questions.

Republicans and Evers have been sparring in recent days over Evers' decision Friday to rename the giant evergreen that governors' administrations have placed in the state Capitol every December as a holiday tree. Evers' predecessor, Republican Scott Walker, declared the tree was a Christmas tree in 2011.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called renaming the tree "PC garbage." Vos echoed him Tuesday, telling reporters that the tree is clearly a Christmas tree and no one has ever told him they want him to spend more time creating politically correct terminology. He said Evers is going through "machinations" to avoid offending a small group of people.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke noted that other religions' symbols are allowed in the Capitol as well during end-of-the-year holidays but "it seems like the only religion we're willing to take shots at is Christianity."

Walker told Fox News on Tuesday that people should acknowledge Christmas just like other religious holidays, adding that a menorah is not a "holiday candle holde