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North Carolina Bill Would Declare Official State Religion

A group of North Carolina legislators is pushing a bill that would assert that the state is free to declare an official state religion despite what the Constitution says:

Republican North Carolina state legislators have proposed allowing an official state religion in a measure that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings.

The bill, filed Monday by two GOP lawmakers from Rowan County andbacked by nine other Republicans, says each state “is sovereign” and courts cannot block a state “from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.” The legislation was filed in response to a lawsuitto stop county commissioners in Rowan County from opening meetings with a Christian prayer, wral.com reported.

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.

The North Carolina bill’s main sponsors, state Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, The Salisbury Post reported. Co-sponsors include House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes (R-Hickory). Another is state Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Concord), who in February introduced a state constitutional amendment that would allow for carrying concealed weapons to fight federal “tyranny.”

The bill says the First Amendment only applies to the federal government and does not stop state governments, local governments and school districts from adopting measures that defy the Constitution. The legislation also says that the Tenth Amendment, which says powers not reserved for the federal government belong to the states, prohibits court rulings that would seek to apply the First Amendment to state and local officials.

Now, it’s true that state legislators can, and often do, propose all kinds of crazy legislation that never sees the light of day in the state legislature, the fact that the House Majority Leader is one of the co-sponsors of the bill suggests that this may be a far more serious proposal than other “crazy” legislation.

As for the merits of the law itself, they are so utterly lacking that it’s hard to even know where to begin. Incorporation of the Bill of Rights via the 14th Amendment is a long-standing legal concept that the Supreme Court has never shown any inclination to reconsider it. North Carolina’s action, of course, would be a clear violation of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which the Court found applicable to the states in Everson v. Board of Education, a case decided back in 1947.  So,, basically, these 11 North Carolina Republicans are proposing something that is blatantly unconstitutional. I hope they’re proud of themselves.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Maybe we can make proposal by an elected official of a blatently unconstitutional law grounds for something? At least we taxpayers shouldn’t have to be paying their salaries during this sort of foolishness…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  2. Moosebreath says:

    “I hope they’re broad of themselves.”

    It looks narrow-minded to me. (removes punning hat).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. How much do you want to bet that the sponsors of this bill are the same people who spend a lot of time wringing their hands about the creeping threat of Sharia law?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 52 Thumb down 0

  4. ernieyeball says:

    Republican North Carolina state legislators have proposed allowing an official state religion in a measure that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings.

    I doubt they have any interest in what this guy has said about this idea.

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State…
    Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptists. Jan. 1 1802

    http://www.usconstitution.net/jeffwall.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. swbarnes2 says:

    But remember, Republicans are the defenders of personal freedoms, and that’s why Doug votes for them.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 2

  6. Scott says:

    So,, basically, these 11 North Carolina Republicans are proposing something that is blatantly unconstitutional.

    These people are also blatantly un-American.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 0

  7. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Hey, some of us were just lucky, and our parents taught us the One True Religion. Other people, who think their parents taught the OTR are just myopic fools!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  8. legion says:

    I guess South Carolina’s threat to put Sanford back into power was making NC look too smart, or something? I got nothing. These people are idiots.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  9. An Interested Party says:

    When some get so offended because the South as well as “flyover country” have the reputations they do, they would do well to remember incidents like this…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Maybe we can make proposal by an elected official of a blatently unconstitutional law grounds for something? At least we taxpayers shouldn’t have to be paying their salaries during this sort of foolishness…

    Maybe we should just make them foot the bill for the inevitable legal costs?

    @Stormy Dragon:

    How much do you want to bet that the sponsors of this bill are the same people who spend a lot of time wringing their hands about the creeping threat of Sharia law?

    But in all of history Christians have never been a threat to anyone….. (that whole Inquisition thing was just a misunderstanding and the Crusades were just repeated attempts to retrieve a helmet somebody left behind and the Salem Witch trials were really about parking tickets and…)

    @ernieyeball:

    I doubt they have any interest in what this guy has said about this idea.

    Yeah, but he was from Virginia and all one has to do is look at Cuccinelli to know how nuts those guys are…. Wait a minute….

    @Scott:

    These people are also blatantly un-American.

    What do you expect from a bunch of neo-Confederates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  11. rudderpedals says:

    The lost cause is lost. Get over it already.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  12. Gustopher says:

    I hope they’re proud of themselves.

    I’m pretty sure they are mighty proud of themselves.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  13. Mr. Replica says:

    @Gustopher:

    I see no reason why they wouldn’t be proud of themselves. The current GOP base loves crap like this. They see no reason why Christianity shouldn’t take over government.

    This is nothing but placating to that base. It will not stand in a court of law, anywhere. But, that just gives these politicians ammo against the government. Not only would the government be seen as immoral, but it also adds fuel to the fire that it is out to oppress Christianity.

    Seems like a win/win for the GOP.

    Just don’t try and pass universal healthcare, or raise taxes, cause that stuff is UN-American/Unconstitutional.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  14. stonetools says:

    So North Carolina noses out South Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee in the crazy sweepstakes ..

    This is why the Democrats need to focus on winning back state governments.Also too , work at challenges to the 2010 gerrymandering changes that diluted the urban vote.
    There may come a time when the Northerners and immigrants who are flocking to NC may just get tired of the yahoos running politics there, pull out their capital and skills and return to civilization.My hope is that they stay there and work for change.

    But remember, Republicans are the defenders of personal freedoms, and that’s why Doug votes for them.

    I’m sure that there are libertarians in NC who defend their votes for Republicans there based on just such nonsense. I’m hoping this is a wake up call for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  15. CSK says:

    The great irony is that most, if not all of them, would describe themselves as “constitutional conservatives.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  16. michael reynolds says:

    They want attention. When you think “Republican” just think, “Toddler.” It all makes more sense that way.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 2

  17. Dave says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the south already try this whole nullify federal law thing in the 1860’s?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  18. JWH says:

    It’s apparently in response to some legislative prayer lawsuits that cropped up in the last few years. But here’s the fun part of all this. If we assume for the sake of argument that a state can, in fact, nullify SCOTUS rulings that it doesn’t like, we’re still left with this section of the North Carolina constitution:

    All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

    Seems to me that establishing a religion would still be verboten in North Carolina, though local governments could still conceivably continue with legislative prayer, and the state would be free to deny rights to atheists. Speaking of which, there’s also this:

    The following persons shall be disqualified for office:
    First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  19. Tsar Nicholas says:

    You can’t really fix stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. al-Ameda says:

    This a great opportunity for Obama to authorize drone strikes to protect North Carolinian Republicans from themselves, and at minimum loss of lives too – nine, right? This what drones were intended for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  21. Septimius says:

    N.C. Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, both Republicans from Rowan, filed the joint resolution Monday.

    Commissioners have vowed to keep praying after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against county leaders on behalf of three Rowan residents last month.

    The proposed resolution says citizens should not lose First Amendment protection “by virtue of their appointment, election, contract, employment, or otherwise engagement.”

    Warren said the proclamation focused on a “literal interpretation” of the First Amendment and was meant to show support for commissioners, not to assert a need for local sovereignty.

    “This is, on my part, more of a demonstration of support more than an effort to have the courts revisit everything,” Warren said.

    The second-term representative said the separation of church and state “has been liberally defined and interpreted” and the resolution intended to support a more conservative understanding.

    But Warren admitted he didn’t expect the bill to go far.

    “I didn’t expect it to go anywhere,” he said, noting that the bill was read into the floor Tuesday morning and referred to the committee for Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House. “Quite often bills go there and never come out.”

    By all means, let’s get all worked up about a non-binding resolution that was only introduced to show support for some local officials who are being sued by the ACLU.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 19

  22. KariQ says:

    But I’ve been assured, solemnly and sincerely, that Republicans believe in Constitutional literalism and that our Founding Fathers were divinely inspired and therefore we must do precisely what they would have done in the 18th century even though we’re now in the 21st.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  23. Tyrell says:

    Too bad King Henry VIII isn’t still around. I always thought he was a neat guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. wr says:

    @Septimius: “By all means, let’s get all worked up about a non-binding resolution that was only introduced to show support for some local officials who are being sued by the ACLU. ”

    To support some local officials who are breaking the law and violating the constitution and being sued for it by the ACLU.

    Yes, let’s all support the courageous citizens. Because all real Americans love the constitution — they just hate what it actually says.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  25. JKB says:

    What? It’s a living constitution, isn’t it? You didn’t think it would behave and not start running with a bad crowd when you let it out, did you?

    Besides, according Sen Feinstein, it is up to the Supreme Court to say what’s constitutional

    Feinstein bristled. “Congress is in the business of making the law. The Supreme Court interprets the law. If they strike down the law, they strike down the law.

    In any case, they have to pass the law before we can know what is in the law…it’s the Democrat way.

    Still they should have said they were going to adopt Environmentalism as the state religion, then substituted Christianity as the last minute, then they’d have full support of the NY Times. Well, up until they amended the bill at least.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 27

  26. JKB says:

    @wr:

    Yeah, let’s make fun of some Republicans who make a non-binding resolution that probably resonates with a majority of the state’s population.

    But pay no attention to the Democrat moron who worked for years to ban high capacity magazine but has no clue how they function:

    Asked how a ban on magazines holding more than 15 rounds would be effective in reducing gun violence, DeGette said:

    “I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”

    Or responds to an older gentleman who asks what he is suppose to do not that she’s got her gun ban and she basically tells him to die.

    Colorado representative Diana DeGette — who is joining President Obama in Colorado today — was pressed by a constituent about how he could defend himself against a home intrusion given the restrictions signed into law last week by Colorado governor John Hickenlooper. The questioner’s microphone either gives out intermittently or he is not speaking directly into it, but he concludes by asking, “What about me?”

    “Good news for you,” DeGette responded. “You live in Denver, the DPD [Denver Police Department] would be there within minutes. . . . You’d probably be dead, anyway.”

    Which is more humorous an empty gesture or a representative telling people that sorry we took your right to defend yourself but you’ll be dead anyway?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 19

  27. legion says:

    @JKB: You don’t seem to grasp the difference between “amending the constitution” and “passing a law that explicitly violates the constitution”. It’s important.

    Also, are you suggesting Feinstein’s comment is incorrect? Or just throwing a random, unrelated slam into an otherwise poorly-informed comment?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  28. legion says:

    @JKB:

    Yeah, let’s make fun of some Republicans who make a non-binding resolution that probably resonates with a majority of the state’s population.

    But pay no attention to the Democrat moron who worked for years to ban high capacity magazine but has no clue how they function:

    Ah, I see the answer to my previous question – you’re just throwing random insults around to distract from the fact that your argument is completely trashed. Carry on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  29. Woody says:

    So it’s come to this: Republican elected officials are amply rewarded by their base if they loudly shill for some clearly ludicrous proposal.

    They are punished by their base if they come to a compromise that gives them 95% of what they want.

    Extraordinary.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  30. swbarnes2 says:

    @JKB:

    Yeah, let’s make fun of some Republicans who make a non-binding resolution that probably resonates with a majority of the state’s population.

    But that’s the problem; that blatant bigotry resonates with a majority of Americans in many places.

    And that even people with whom it does not resonate, like Doug, will vote for politicians who make these bills anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JWH: Good find.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @legion:

    But pay no attention to the Democrat moron who worked for years to ban high capacity magazine but has no clue how they function:

    This quote is from JKB, whom I can no longer stomach to read.

    Hey, JKB… 22 dead children would like to have a word with you….. not to mention a bunch of people in Tuscon AZ who only stopped a homicidal maniac when his clip ran out….

    Repeat after me: There are 2 kinds of people who need 30 round clips…. Mass murderers, and really bad shots. Take your pick. Either way, I don’t want them you having one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  33. wr says:

    @JKB: “Yeah, let’s make fun of some Republicans who make a non-binding resolution that probably resonates with a majority of the state’s population.”

    Sure, why not? Hey. let them pass a bill bringing back slavery — as long as it’s only a non-binding resolution, what’s the problem? Maybe we should congratulate them if they pass a bill recommending that all liberals be put in concentration camps. Hey, non-binding, it’s all in good fun!

    Because no one actually elects law makers to make laws that follow the constitution. No, we all want assclowns who will spend their time on ludicrous bills that violate the very essence of the ideals this nation was founded on.

    But hey, they’re non-binding! So let’s all thank them and then change the subject to how mean those meanie libs are to gun owners, who only want to be free to shoot prosecutors in Texas and Colorado like the constitution says they can!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  34. JKB says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Repeat after me: There are 2 kinds of people who need 30 round clips…. Mass murderers, and really bad shots.

    So which category do you put law enforcement in? What about the Secret Service?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  35. JAFO says:

    @al-Ameda:
    So, you’re calling for the assassination of 9 legislators by drone strike over religious beliefs? And you call *them* crazy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  36. An Interested Party says:

    It’s fascinating that national politicians get trashed for not doing anything of any substance and wasting time and money but when some fools in North Carolina do the same things, that gets a very different reaction from the previously outraged…states’ rights indeed…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  37. Robert in SF says:

    If anyone wants to slow this down, just ask them which *brand* of Christianity is the State religion? Baptist? Presbyterian? Methodist?

    OK, so let’s say they somehow agree on Baptist…but now which brand of Baptist? Freewill? Fundamentalist? Southern Baptist?

    The discussion about which precepts are the true requirements will take all the debate time and no one will ever get to vote…

    I’m actually *from* North Carolina, a small town outside Raleigh, and while it’s not as bad as this…there some real un-Christian talk amongst some family and friends of the family about other churches and their beliefs…nothing as bad as this at the 2:00 minute mark, but still…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  38. matt says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Really that shit again? About 21,000 children die a day and you don’t give a shit about it. Yet you want me to bend over backwards because of 22 dying? Hell more then 22 children died that same day in the USA from non gun related accidents involving stuff like pools and cars.

    So just quit with the pretend outrage will you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  39. anjin-san says:

    @ matt

    So just quit with the pretend outrage will you.

    I read the other day that over a million people have been murdered with guns in this country since John Lennon was murdered with a gun.

    No skin off your nose, eh matt?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  40. Matt says:

    @anjin-san: Of course over 10x that many died in preventable car crashes. People die and they die a lot every year from stuff that is easily preventable. Focusing on the small non easily preventable things seems silly to me..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3