On July 1, Pennsylvania legislators and other officials gathered in the rotunda of the state Capitol to sign the Penn Proclamation for Peace and Unity, a proclamation honoring William Penn, the founder of the commonwealth.
The event was led by Representative Dave Zimmerman, and speakers included Senators Cris Dush, Lisa Baker and Doug Mastriano, Representatives Kathy Rapp and Frank Ryan, and Judge Patricia McCullough.
The event included a reading of the proclamation, which highlighted Penn and his words and emphasized his model of government. Approximately 60 legislators signed the proclamation.
In 1681, William Penn received a charter for land from King Charles II. The territory that would become Pennsylvania was initially named Penn’s Woods.
“As Pennsylvania’s first governor, William Penn’s Frame of Government for his colony became a model not only for most state governments, but also for the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” Zimmerman said.
Penn wanted freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, Zimmerman said.
Other speakers also stressed the role that religion played in Penn’s commonwealth.
Dush referenced Penn’s words in his 1682 Act for Freedom of Conscience, where Penn expressed his desire and intent to “establish such laws as shall best preserve true Christian and civil liberty in opposition to all unchristian, licentious and unjust practices.”
Every iteration of the Pennsylvania Constitution, including the current one, explicitly references “Almighty God.” It is impossible to teach the constitution without teaching about God, Dush said.
Both Dush and McCullough referenced biblical law as the foundation for Penn’s laws. English law was heavily influenced by the book of Deuteronomy, Dush explained. McCullough said that Penn prayed that God would make Pennsylvania the seed of a nation and that its people would do what is truly wise and just. She continued, “That’s why Penn looked for his Frame of Government and his Charter of Privileges to the law given to Moses and to the law which later as Jesus said He came not to abolish but to fulfill, and that the greatest two commands were to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourself.”
Mastriano applauded Penn’s faith and noted how the media today attacks Christians for their faith.
Ryan reinforced his oath to support and defend both the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution, saying, “I will be willing to surrender my life for the liberties espoused by the great experiment brought to us by William Penn, under the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The religious foundation of both the state and the nation continues to be an issue of contention between those who would seek to preserve that heritage and those who would seek to abandon it. While events that have upheld the religious principles laid out in the original Pennsylvania Constitution have met with opposition from some within the community, this public signing of a proclamation that honors Penn and his ethics reveals that the religious roots of the commonwealth still run deep.
Chris Hume joined The Lancaster Patriot in early 2022. He is responsible for managing customer service, sales, and content across all The Lancaster Patriot’s print and digital channels. Prior to The Lancaster Patriot, Chris worked in restaurant management, and before that he served in the U.S. Air Force. He holds an M.B.A from Wesley College, an M.A. in literature from Clarks Summit University, and a B.A. in history from Ashford University.