In resolution, Pa. lawmaker blames COVID-19 outbreak on ‘our presumptuous sins’ | Tuesday Morning Coffee

March 24, 2020 7:30 am

Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, delivers a prayer on the floor of the Pa. state House on 3/25/2019 (Screen Capture).

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It’s been a while since we’ve had occasion to write about freshman state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, the Clinton County Culture Warrior whose reputation seems to rests solely on introducing the most polarizing legislation that she can.

From efforts to help counties establish most-likely unconstitutional “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” and a “heartbeat” abortion ban bill to a bit of gratuitous Islamophobia, the Republican lawmaker has made no shortage of headlines in her brief time under the Capitol dome.

Well, she’s back. And her latest effort attempts a triple-Metcalfe with a half-turn.

(Screen Capture)

On Monday, Borowicz dropped a non-binding resolution that would, if approved, declare March 30 “a state day of humiliation, fasting and prayer in Pennsylvania,” because, she says, the COVID-19 epidemic that’s claimed the lives of thousands worldwide and six right here in Pennsylvania, “may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.”

The resolution is modeled on a similar proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln,  issued in the depths of the Civl War, where he declared March 30, 1863 a national day of humiliation, fasting and prayer. The language of Borowicz’s resolution borrows nearly word-for-word from the nation’s 16th chief executive.

For instance, from Lincoln:
“Whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

From the Borowicz resolution:
“Whereas, with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

(President Abraham Lincoln)

Borowicz’s resolution calls for the House of Representatives [to] request that all Pennsylvanians abstain on that [March 30] day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”

it’s Lincoln. word-for-word, who asked that: “all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”

Borowicz has never made any secret about the depth of her faith. Last year, she doubled-down on it during an interview with a Christian radio host in the midst of that Islamophobia controversy.

I’ll take her at her word on her authenticity of her faith, though it appears that Borowicz has more often wielded it as a weapon to divide instead of using it to bring people together — which is how I’ve always read the message in the Gospels.

And a clever as the nod to history is, it’s still worth noting that the country is a vastly different place than it was in Lincoln’s day — a reality hammered home in a 2019 Pew poll that found more and more Americans disenchanted with organized religion.

Prayer undoubtedly provides solace for many during this time of trial.

But I’d also point out that the diverse residents of this commonwealth of nearly 13 million souls, who worship in all manner of ways, don’t need the state stepping in to dictate whether, where, or when they engage in acts of faithfulness. If at all.

That’s the province of theocracies, not democracies — even if Lincoln did come up with it the first time around.

And again, this is a resolution, which means it doesn’t carry the force of law. And it is as I’ve previously pointed out, it is one of the many hundreds of pieces of ceremonial busy work that comes before the Legislature in every two-year session, distracting from the business of actual lawmaking.

So I’ll just ask Rep. Borowicz this one question — and in language that she might recognize:

WHEREAS: With the endless challenges now facing the Commonwealth: From hospitals struggling to get their hands on badly needed supplies to Pennsylvanians mourning the deaths of loved one from the virus; from parents scrambling to find childcare with schools canceled to people panicking about how they’ll make ends meet with their places of employment shuttered; from the strains on our mental health system to ensuring the guarantee of safety in our streets; in the face of all the manifold and unprecedented dilemmas that now confront us; and,

WHEREAS: With the authority you wield as a lawmaker to address some, or all, of those real, and life-changing problems, and to bring real relief to the voters you serve, don’t you have something else — anything else? — that you could be doing with your time?

RESOLVED: That the House State Government Committeewhere this legislation currently resides, summarily ignores this headline-grabbing gesture, and gets about the badly needed business of ensuring the smooth and effective functioning of elections at this time of great need.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison leads our coverage this morning: A less-than-transparent public meeting by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, held in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, has raised red flags among good government advocates.

Thousands of state human service workers were sent home last week, then ordered back to work, despite concerns that their offices weren’t prepared for the COVID-19 outbreakStephen Caruso writes.

Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered residents in seven Pennsylvania counties to stay at home as officials try to contain what’s now seen as the “exponential” growth of COVID-19 infections. And Pennsylvania has now seen six fatalities as a result of the illness, health officials said Monday.

From our partners at the Pittsburgh Current: A look at how the decision to shutdown state stores could have dangerous implications for people struggling with alcohol abuse.

On our Commentary Page: State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, a leading voice for gun-violence reform, urges all those folks who ran out to buy guns and ammo last week to remember to store their new weapons safely.

And opinion regular Lloyd Sheaffer has a heartbreaking, yet inspiring, column about the lengths to which Pennsylvania public school teachers are going to make sure their students’ education continues during our time of shuttered schools. 


(Photo via pxHere)

The Inquirer 
takes a look at the effects of longer school closings and other shutdowns.
The Post-Gazette profiles a small manufacturing firm in Jefferson County that’s doing its part to fight the outbreak.
The Morning Call has the details on the second COVID-19 death in Northampton County.
PennLive has the full list of what residents in seven counties can — and can’t — do under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

WHYY-FM has the latest on the state of the outbreak in New Jersey and in Delaware.
Mental health professionals in Philadelphia are offering free care to health care workers, WITF-FM reports. 
looks at how states are preparing for a possible mail-in presidential election.
State governments are pressing for more direct aid in the stimulus package now making the rounds of Capitol Hill, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
11 a.m.:
 The House comes in for its first session of remote voting.
The Senate remains on a 12-hour call.
Time TBD: Daily COVID-19 update.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a sunny groove to help with #WFHLife. It’s ‘Make a Move,’ by the amazingly named Winston Surfshirt.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous History Fact.
Today in 1999, the Kosovo War begins as NATO begins an aerial bombardment campaign against Yugoslavia. This marks the first time NATO attacked a sovereign country.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.