Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the self-declared arbiter of morality these days, especially when it comes to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, which Pelosi denounced as “immoral” on several occasions.
But that certainly isn’t the only time Pelosi has wrapped herself in a cloak of sanctimonious righteousness for the sake of politics. A reporter from the left-leaning Slate took a closer look at a supposed Bible verse she has “quoted” many times … a “verse” of Scripture, it turns out, that nobody can actually find in the Bible.
During a speech last week for the annual Christian Colleges and Universities Conference, Pelosi, who is Catholic, shared the “verse” in support of immigration reform.
“Pastor” Pelosi said, “I can’t find it in the Bible, but I quote it all the time. I keep reading and reading the Bible — I know it’s there someplace. It’s supposed to be in Isaiah — I heard a bishop say, ‘To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship … to ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.’
“It’s there somewhere in some words or another, but certainly the spirit of it is there,” she added. But, as Slate’s Ruth Graham discovered, that particular verse isn’t found in the Bible, in the Book of Isaiah or anywhere else.
Nonexistent Bible verse
Graham contacted two Biblical scholars to for help in sourcing Pelosi’s mystery verse but didn’t get far. Will Kynes, associate professor of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Whitworth University — said in an email, “The Pelosi passage is not in the Bible.”
The closest thing Kynes could find was Proverbs 14:31, which reads, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.” Greg MaGee, associate professor of Biblical studies at Taylor University, independently offered up the same verse in Proverbs as the nearest match.
Repeated usage of nonexistent verse
Graham noted that Pelosi was correct in stating “I quote it all the time.” In fact, the Congressional Record showed that that particular saying has been spoken no less than 12 times on the House floor since 2002, 11 of which were spoken by Pelosi, and once by Republican Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who was, in fact, quoting Pelosi. That, of course, doesn’t count the times she has used the quote off the House floor, such as in this recent speech.
Pelosi has cited that “Bible verse” in support of vastly different pieces of legislation and political goals, from support for the victims of genocide in Darfur, to praising Catholic schools, from strengthening the Endangered Species Act to offering condolences for the victims of the 2004 southeast Asian tsunami … even for an Agricultural Reform bill in 2013, Graham reported.
Save for a little bit of pushback in 2008 from some conservative media outlets — who similarly contacted Biblical scholars who similarly were unable to locate the mystery Bible verse cited by Pelosi — the Speaker has repeatedly used this “Bible verse” to support her political aims of the moment with very minimal criticism.
Pelosi’s office, when contacted by Slate about her repeated use of a nonexistent Bible verse, declined to provide any comment.
Meanwhile, Trump sent out an approving tweet on Monday about new legislation in several states that would allow students to take optional Bible literacy classes in school.
Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019