North Carolina state Tea Party Republican lawmakers have filed a bill to allow the state to establish an official state religion. The move is a direct assault on the U.S. Constitution and wholly ignores the Fourteenth Amendment. The two sponsors of the bill, freshmen House Representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford, have already managed to get nine co-sponsors who conveniently have ignored the fact that Rep. Ford’s full-time job: the owner of two North Carolina Gospel music radio stations.
The bill claims “each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion,” and mentions the Tenth Amendment three times. It also argues First Amendment “prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools.”
Article 6 Section 8 of the North Carolina state constitution reads:
The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.
The Huffington Post adds:
The religion bill comes as some Republican-led states seek to separate themselves from the federal government, primarily on the issues of guns and Obamacare. This includes a proposal in Mississippi to establish a state board with the power to nullify federal laws.
“They basically want to ensure that a long line of U.S. Supreme Court rulings have no validity either here in Rowan County or here in the entire state,” [Dr. Michael] Bitzer of Catawba College told the Salisbury Post:
“They’re basing it on — to put it mildly — discredited legal theory that the states can deny the power of the federal government within their jurisdiction. We saw this in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education. The belief is that the states hold more power than the federal government. If the federal government does something, the states can simply ignore it.”
The legislation also references a freedom for those in public schools — which could open the door for schoolhouse prayer, Bitzer said.
“They’re ramping up,” he said of [Reps.] Warren and Ford. “They’re throwing the gauntlet down. How much this is going to be binding — it’s a joint resolution — but they’re basically making it known where they’re drawing the line. This will play well within the base, but it calls into question any historical understanding of the past 200-plus years of legal precedents for both understanding the role of religion in the public sphere and the role of states to the federal government.”
The ACLU filed suit on behalf of residents Nan Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Robert Voelker in early March to stop commissioners’ use of sectarian prayer during official meetings. They alleged a civil rights violation in the action.
In a statement released Tuesday, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook took aim at the resolution.
“The bill sponsors fundamentally misunderstand constitutional law and the principles of the separation of powers that date back to the founding of this country,” Brook wrote.
Gary Freeze, a history and politics professor at Catawba College, said the legislation also goes against a longstanding North Carolina tradition of religious establishment.
“I can tell you with 100 percent confidence there is no tradition of wanting an established religion in this state’s heritage,” Freeze said.
He also described the bill as “the verge of being neo-secessionist.”
“It’s almost anti-nationalist. It has elements of not being American,” Freeze said. “I think it goes far beyond religion and frankly doesn’t have a lot to do with North Carolina or tradition.”
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