This is why we have separation of church of state. It also illustrates how the belief that America was founded as a Christian nation informs the legislative agenda of the country’s highest GOP lawmakers.
Does Hyde-Smith really believe our voting rights should be governed by Old Testament law? Does she know Chuck Schumer is Jewish and Jews do not celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday? Is this just a political move to win points with Mississippi voters back home? I am guessing it is a little of everything.
Here is Paul Blest at VICE:
GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is apparently unaware that the Bible doesn’t govern voting laws.
But perhaps even more curious is the decision the Mississippi senator made on Wednesday to lecture the first Jewish Senate Majority Leader in U.S. history about the Sabbath, and specifically that it falls on a Sunday.
In Judaism, the Sabbath, or Shabbat, lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Sen. Hyde-Smith and Sen. Chuck Schumer took part in a Senate Rules Committee debate over the For the People Act, the election reform bill passed by the House earlier this month.
During his opening statement, Schumer specifically cited an effort by the Republican-led Georgia state Legislature to ban early voting on Sunday. (Georgia Republicans have since modified the bill to allow counties to schedule up to two Sunday early voting days, though it still restricts voting access in a myriad of other ways.) The Georgia House is expected to pass that bill today.
Calling Georgia’s initial move to restrict voting a “reprehensible effort,” Schumer cited the longstanding tradition of “Souls to the Polls,” a voter mobilization effort by Black churches and civil rights groups on Sundays to increase access to the ballot for Black voters, who’ve been historically disenfranchised. He argued that the bill sought to depress Black turnout in a state that just voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in decades, with Black voters overwhelmingly voting Democrat, and delivering the Democrats their Senate majority.
“What an astonishing coincidence: outlaw voting on a day when African-American churches sponsor get-out-the-vote efforts,” Schumer said.
“I’d like one of the Republican members on this committee to give us a plain-sense justification for that restriction,” Schumer added.
That’s when Hyde-Smith jumped in.
“I would like to respond to that: Georgia’s a Southern state just like Mississippi. I cannot speak for Georgia, but I can speak for Mississippi on why we would never do that on a Sunday, or hold an election on a Sunday,” she said.
“In God’s word, in Exodus 20:18, it says ‘Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,’ so that is my response to Sen. Schumer,” Hyde-Smith said.
The specific verse Hyde-Smith refers to is in the Hebrew Bible, known in Christianity as the Old Testament, and thus the “Sabbath” in Exodus is the same as it is in Judaism—beginning Friday evening and ending Saturday night. In other words, not Sunday.
Read the entire piece here.
Anyone who wants to historicize this discussion should take a look at Katy Kaslow’s University of South Carolina M.A. thesis, “Anti-Sabbatarianism in Antebellum America: The Christian Quarrel over the Sanctity of Sunday.” (Yes, Katy is one of my former students and research assistants).